You don’t hear many favorable airport stories about TSA agents these days, but I’ve got one—and it’s a true story!
A TSA agent once shared words of wisdom with me that led to an epiphany. A few years ago, I hurried into the San Diego International airport to catch a flight to Chicago. I rushed to the back of a long security line and prepared myself for a lengthy wait. After a couple of minutes of fiddling with my phone and craning my neck to see if the line was moving, I faintly heard a droning male voice floating toward me from the security check point. The voice was repeating a mantra over and over in a tired melody as if the speaker was bored with the sameness of the message. I strained to hear the words spoken, “There is another security line open in the next aisle, people. No waiting. Step right up. Walk right through.” Had I heard the voice correctly? By now, I could see the agent walking toward me. I could hear him more clearly. Yes. He was saying that there was a second security line open. I was puzzled because none of the many people ahead of me paid any attention to him. No one moved from their place in line. No one even looked his way. I wondered if they all knew something I didn’t. Was this guy a TSA imposter? An unstable person pretending to be an airport official? Or worse, someone who was trying to prank an unsuspecting traveler into losing her place in line?
I asked the person ahead of me, “What did he say?” “I don’t know,” was the reply. When the agent was close enough, I asked him if there really was another line open. The agent responded, “Yes ma’am. There is another security line open in the next aisle. No waiting. Step right up. Walk right through.” I turned again to look at the many people in line ahead of me and behind me. I was really confused, and it must’ve shown on my face because it was then that the wise TSA agent enlightened me… “It’s the herd mentality ma’am. Most people don’t listen. They don’t think or pay attention. They just follow the crowd.” Enough said. I made my way to the other completely empty security line. As I walked away, I could hear the Yoda of TSA continue his proclamation as he walked down the line. I didn’t look back to see if anyone else awoke from the “just follow the crowd” trance, but even these several years later I’m still perplexed at what I witnessed. That was an incredibly real and natural illustration in human behavior—the kind we should teach ourselves and our girls to avoid.
Parents, teach your girls to pay attention, listen, ask questions, and think for themselves in every situation. We can hurt ourselves and miss out on so much by just blindly following the crowd.
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