TSA Worker Confessions Show What’s Really On Their Mind When They Search You At The Airport

Have you ever wondered why going through TSA sometimes feels like waiting in line at the DMV? Everything seems a little darker, smiles may as well be forbidden, and something inside is telling you that you’ve done something wrong even though you haven’t.

That feeling isn’t just in your head. In fact, TSA workers have a host of reasons they aren’t often the perky type. These include things like picky travelers, abandoned mannequins, vibrating items, and kitten breaches. We’ll look at everything from Facebook posts to news stories to uncover what’s really going on in the minds of TSA agents while they’re on duty.

Don’t Try To Out-Petty TSA

A woman TSA worker points to a passenger's bag.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

One TSA worker posted on the TSA Breakroom page that a passenger left a note in their bag that demanded that they not touch anything in the bag, and to call her if they need to. The worker proceeded to notify their supervisor, who quickly instructed them to ignore the note.

Being an obedient worker and all, they were sure to touch everything in the bag without calling the owner who had left the note. They then threw a ton of inspection notes into the bag as a hint. The post concluded, “MORAL OF THE STORY: Don’t try to out-petty TSA…we win every time.”

Not All Airports Are The Same

A passenger looks worried while a male TSA worker points another direction.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On September 6th 2019, one anonymous TSA worker posted, “I hate hate hate hate hate!!!! Hearing ‘well I went threw another airport and they didn’t say anything!'” In case you couldn’t tell by the five hates, four exclamation points, and misspelling of the word “through,” they really don’t like people using other airports as an excuse.

One person in the comments made the point that you don’t tell a cop that you got away with speeding past another cop, suggesting that getting away with something at one airport TSA does not make it okay at another. Take note, travelers!

The Fading Light

A TSA worker stares off.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

On February 25th, a TSA worker posted, “Does anyone else enjoy seeing the light/life fade out of the new hires eyes?” They went on to say that it usually takes about three months before they start to struggle to keep the light in their eyes.

It may be a little harsh to say that they “enjoy” seeing the light fade, but it also goes to show that being a TSA worker probably isn’t the most enjoyable job. One person in the comments made the sarcastic remark, “You must be great at parties.”

Nicknaming The Gloves

Someone puts a glove on one hand.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

TSA workers have to constantly wear gloves, which can probably get a little annoying. That’s likely what lead one worker to come up with a few nicknames for their gloves. On October 15th, said worker posted the three options he’d come up with for names.

The options up for a Facebook vote were: A. The Jack the Ripper Signature Model, B. The Boston Stranglers, or C. The OJs. When it comes to wearing uncomfortable, tight gloves all day, we suppose the least you can do is convince yourself that wearing them transforms you into some kind of force not to be reckoned with.

Issues With Management

A TSA worker wears an annoyed facial expression.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Few companies are exempt from having managerial issues. However, when the bosses are so inconsiderate that you can’t even get a fan in your workspace during 100-degree weather, something is clearly wrong. That’s what one TSA worker complained about in a post made on June 19th.

They wrote, “100 degrees at SLC today and we can’t get fans for the checkpoint with proper plugs to meet safety guidelines […] $3,000 was spent for new chairs for the managers office.” Seeing thousands spent on higher-ups rather than a few hundred on fans for the TSA workers would be frustrating to anyone.

How Do You Survive Each Day?

A TSA worker looks closely at a passenger.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

One TSA worker posted on June 8th that they simply don’t understand how some of their less intellectually-inclined visitors get out of bed each day and manage to survive. They wrote, “[How] do these people wake up and get themselves dress in the morning and make it to the airport without getting themselves killed?”

While this may seem like an extreme reaction to a few dumb travelers, the first comment reads, “I ask this on a daily basis.” Another commenter said that after ten years on the job, you accept the stupidity as a scientific phenomenon.

The Rise Of The Exodus

TSA workers walk out with bags in their hands.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Unfortunately, sometimes unresolved issues can lead to a large number of workers resigning at the same time. That’s what one user wrote about on August first. They said, “Just wondering if IAD is the only airport that is losing Officers faster than we can certify them?”

One person responded, “Treat us more like human beings and respect us and TSA won’t have such issues.” While we certainly wouldn’t want to discourage someone from a career in TSA, and all jobs have their cons, we do hope to encourage others to be the light in these downcast TSA workers’ lives as much as possible.

Follow Our House Rules

A TSA worker high fives a passenger.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

One TSA worker wrote a post on August 3rd that compared varying airport procedures and inconsistent house rules. The wrote, “Some [houses] have pets and even then some are allowed on furniture and some aren’t. Some homes you take off your shoes and others you don’t.”

The post concluded that some people are too lazy to follow instructions. If there’s one thing we can learn from this worker’s frustration, it’s not to expect that every airport’s process will be the same. Follow their protocol, and you may even get a high-five from a TSA worker.

The Cat’s Out Of The Bag

A man leans down to snuggle kittens in a suitcase.
Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images
Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images

One thing that you might be surprised TSA workers have to deal with is people trying to hide their cat in their luggage! You would think they’d know better since it’s routine to have your luggage scanned as a part of the security check, but that hasn’t stopped some people.

For instance, Fox News reported an incident wherein an airport worker in the UK found a cat in the luggage of a couple headed to New York. As it turns out, the cat had snuck into their bag without the couple’s knowledge. That’s one loyal kitty!

Kitty Breach

A TSA officer holds a cat.
David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

As it turns out, cats can actually be quite a nightmare to handle. Even the ones that are properly accounted for and stored in their carriers need to undergo specific security measures, which would be difficult for anyone to pull off.

Cats have to be taken out of their carriers and inspected before getting on the plane. Since they are expert dodgers, and already agitated from being couped up all day, it’s easy for one to slip away. This leads to an airport breach, in which case a terminal may end up being shut down!

Dogs And TSA Go Hand-In-Hand

A dog wearing sunglasses sits in a bag on the counter at an airport.
Manny Ceneta/Getty Images
Manny Ceneta/Getty Images

It’s no secret that trained dogs can be a huge resource to law enforcement, and this includes TSA. It must be nice as a TSA worker to have a dog doing the inspecting on your behalf for a change. Worst case, you can blame the inconvenience on the animal, rather than having to always be the bad guy.

When it comes to dogs that are not trained, however, they also tend to be favored by TSA employees. That’s because, as opposed to cats, dogs usually love being pet. When they get a pat-down for security purposes, it’s like being in heaven to many canines.

What About Squirrels?

A man glances at a squirrel sitting on his shoulder.
Tony Evans/Getty Images
Tony Evans/Getty Images

It may seem absurd to think that a squirrel would ever be on a plane to begin with. However, as TSA workers in Orlando can attest, even squirrels can be the cause of a security breach. According to The Washington Post, a woman managed to somehow get onto a plane with her squirrel hidden away in a small cage.

How she got past TSA is a mystery, but authorities were quick to escort her off of the plane when a flight attendant spotted the creature. Despite the woman being upset, the TSA agents were adamant that an emotional-support animal is not the same as a service animal.

Passionate About Insects

A TSA officer wears an open mouth while pausing from searching a bag.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Imagine the shock that you would feel if on a regular workday, you came across a person with almost 100 tarantulas in their luggage. That’s exactly what happened at a French Guiana airport in August. According to People, the man claimed that he has a “passion for insects.”

However, after further investigation, police concluded it may be money he’s passionate about, as there is quite the market for insects from the area the man was flying out of. That means that if this man wasn’t those TSA’s first run-in with insects, it might not be their last.

Anyone Missing A Mannequin?

Various mannequins are photographed in evening gowns.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House

According to a local Miami, Florida news station, one airport had to deal with one of the strangest items they’ve ever caught before: a mannequin. The traveler apparently left it behind before boarding their plane.

While it is legal to bring a mannequin onto a plane, doing so can be a real nightmare for TSA. That’s because they have to inspect all of the different parts in order to be absolutely sure that they aren’t hiding any harmful substances. Despite being perfectly safe, it’s one of the more awkward items to deal with at this job.

Vibrating Items Are An Immediate Red Flag

A man raises a hand to his face while TSA searches his bag.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

There are many things that might vibrate while you’re in an airport, such as a phone, an electric toothbrush, or an electric razor. However, if something happens to vibrate in someone’s baggage, TSA has to report it to the police.

Imagine being the TSA worker who has to explain to a passenger that their toothbrush caused a breach and that police are on the way. That wouldn’t be a fun conversation to have. So help TSA out and take out the batteries of anything that might accidentally vibrate.

Germophobic Travelers

A woman looks seriously at a TSA worker.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that TSA is familiar with, it’s gloves. You may remember early that one TSA worker posted on Facebook about his new gloves with a list of potential nicknames for them. Poking fun at their gloves may be their way of dealing with the stress that certain passengers put on them to remain germ-free.

It turns out that some travelers feel inclined to ask TSA to change their gloves before handling their belongings or doing a search. Though these officers do change their gloves frequently, they have to oblige if someone asks them to do it again.

Random Searches Might Not Be So Random

A TSA officer rummages through someone's suitcase.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While it’s routine to have random searches as a precaution, sometimes an extra search is to the fault of the passenger themself. In an interview with Politico, one previous TSA worker said that they would sometimes pull a passenger’s bag because they were rude.

The worker said that they would always call it a random search, but sometimes it was a way to get back at the person giving them an attitude. The small delay can be infuriating to a traveler who is running low on time, so be sure to hold back the insults when going through TSA.

Constantly On The Go

A group of TSA officers walk through an airport.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If you’ve ever had to spend a significant amount of time in a TSA line, you may have noticed something about how the workers operate. Oftentimes, they don’t stay in one place for very long. That’s because they need to avoid getting too into a routine.

Anytime you’re doing the same task for an extended amount of time, you run the risk of going into autopilot mode. While this isn’t a huge deal in many careers, for a TSA member it can be a serious matter. Having workers move to different stations frequently helps prevent them from missing something or making an error.

Their Job Can Be Scary

A TSA officer looks grim while instructing passengers where to go.
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Few people undergo the constant fear of something life-threatening happening at work. TSA officers, on the other hand, are trained to anticipate just that. All of the precautions they take, which many of the travelers find a nuisance, have to be taken seriously by the workers.

Should a threat happen at an airport, a TSA employee might be asked to remove their uniform before leaving work. This is a precaution in case someone who was detained by airport authorities intends to retaliate. That’s sure to make your Monday a whole lot worse.

Sometimes TSA Workers Are Heroes

A man opens his suit to reveal a Superman costume underneath.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

TSA workers have to be on the alert for anything that goes wrong, even if it has nothing to do with the airport or a security breach. This was proven when a TSA officer for Alaska Airlines saved the life of a young girl at the airport.

According to Fox News, she was choking on a grape while at the airport. Another passenger ran to TSA for help and the worker promptly performed the Heimlich maneuver with success. As authoritative figures, TSA agents have to be ready to act like superheroes, even if they aren’t always treated as such.