Unlike the last time when I left the TSA photo policy sitting in my printer before leaving to the airport, I made sure to print out 30 copies in case I had to hand them out to several Transportation Security Administration officials at Miami International Airport as I prepared to board a plane to Boston this morning.
It turned out, I didn’t even have to pull one out because the first TSA screener who approached me knew the policy.
He never did tell me that I was not allowed to record as they have in the past. He just politely asked me what I was shooting for and I told him I was shooting for Photography is Not a Crime.
I also explained that I was doing it for the sole purpose of seeing if they know their own policy. He said he did and I didn’t have any problems after that, even though a few TSA screeners glared at me.
The screener’s name was Jose and he was a little camera shy, which is a shame because I would have loved to get an on camera interview with him. But I didn’t press the issue because he had already respected my right to shoot, so I was respecting his wish not to be on camera, even though he does come out in the video.
If he had ordered me to turn off the camera, you better believe I would have not stopped recording him.
I was using the Flip Mino, which is just too small to keep a steady shot when you’re holding it with one hand while pulling a camera bag with your other hand through a bustling TSA line. I love the compact size of the camera but it’s just not feasible for these situations.
At first, it appeared as if they were going to herd me through the radiation body scanner, which I had planned to opt out of to see how they would react to me video recording my own pat-down, but at the last second, they diverted me to the regular metal detector.
Once on the other side, Jose came up and started talking to me as I was putting my shoes back on and he was a real nice guy.
He was 28 years old and had been working for TSA for five years. And he said it might not be the most exciting job, but he is grateful to have it because it allows him to support his wife and three kids.
He had a very realistic approach to his job, which was simply to do his job and not create laws and act like a cop as we’ve seen so many of them do.
He said every once in a while somebody walks through with a camera to test the system out, but most of the time, they act like complete assholes. He respected the fact that I remained professional.
He also said that he purposely approached me before I stepped up to the TSA screener who was checking boarding passes because he figured that guy would have made an issue about the camera.
He said that once the others saw me talking to him in a professional, friendly manner, they knew it was under control, even if I was continuing to record. So I’m sure they learned something new this morning.
I told him I was flabbergasted that the TSA supervisor in Washington DC, not far from the actual TSA headquarters, had no clue about the photo policy and even went as far as calling the cops on me when I continued to record.
And there was that time that another TSA supervisor at Miami International Airport did not know the law until I showed it to him.
And he said, “Not everybody with knowledge is in power.”
And I guess that’s the same everywhere.
We shook hands and I gave him my card before walking to my flight. That’s never happened before.
He deserves a promotion not only because he knew the policy but because he has excellent people skills.
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