How the security nazi got me to say thank you

blog security photo

I walked out of the airport security screening queue, with a pair of shoes and a belt in one hand, a laptop in the other and a bag slung over each shoulder.  The modern traveller who knows exactly which bits of clothing to remove, to get through the scan beep-free.

I saw the explosives-testing guy looking at me.  Surely not, I thought.  Do I really look like an effing terrorist, holding all this crap?

“Would you just step this way sir?”  You bastard, I thought.

“Do you want me to get dressed first or after?” I said sulkily.

The last time I was similarly caught, and I asked the same question, the security nazi said, “Your decision, mate.  It’s all the same to me.”  You bastard, I had thought.

This time, the answer to my sarcastic enquiry was:  “Why don’t you use the space here to get dressed.  There’s nowhere else around here with enough room to get organized, the whole area is too small.  I’ll just do my stuff while you sort yourself out.”

You what?  You’re not a nazi after all?  “Yeah, it’s not like terminal 2 where there is plenty of space to get dressed,” I said.  Suddenly, instead of a surly confrontation, we were having a conversation.

When it was all done, the explosives guy said, “You have a nice trip,” and I said “Thanks mate.”

That was the first time out of dozens of times of being pulled aside that I ever said ”thanks” to an explosive tester.  Usually I just treat it at best with an air of world-weary ennui, or at worst with dismissive grumpiness.

What was the difference?  This time I was being made complicit in the irrelevance of an annoying necessity.  We were co-conspirators, just having to play our parts.

I suspect this guy is just as unenthused at pulling travellers over to be tested, as I am about having to submit to it.  Did he sum me up as a bored business traveller, and engage me accordingly?

What if I had been wearing board shorts, thongs and a t-shirt saying “I support gay marriage, as long as both chicks are hot” – might he have taken a different tack?

I reckon he would have.  What he was, possibly, was a customer service professional, with a real talent for what used to be known as bedside manner.

Either that, or he had chosen his attitude for the day, and it was: “Give the punters a break while submitting them to a shitty process.”

Whichever it was, he got this cynical but resigned traveller on his side.

It got me to thinking.  If a security nazi can pull something like that off, how can I get a similar result, next time I have to take people through an uncomfortable but unavoidable process – get them to see it differently, and then say thanks at the end?

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    • Carly White
    • December 12th, 2012

    Ha ha, I know someone with that shirt!! 😉

  1. I think it’s easy to be grumpy in places like airports, where there are crowds and stress. Which is why we should all make an extra effort to be nice to the poor operatives who run these places. You know how they say you can judge a person by the way he or she speaks to waiters? Times that by ten in an airport.

    And in any case, I would rather they look for all types of people in those checks – surely any modern terrorist isn’t going to wear a full Yasser Arafat affair to bomb a plane right? More like a sharp pair of threads and an iPad.

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