SFO on a Sunday night, at least in Terminal 3 at the United concourse, is a wee bit understaffed for the passenger load. Everything was moving very slowly, stupidly slowly. The four people in front of me all set off the metal detector with the usual array of coins, belts, cell phones and “huh?”s. When I finally got to the metal detector, I walked through clean, and was promptly waved into the holding pen while “male assist” was called.
I then stood there for five minutes. At least half a dozen women were screened. Several men behind me set off the metal detector, were patted down by the guy who had diverted me and sent on their way. I, who had not set off the metal detector, stood and waited until I finally did something I never do — I backtalked the TSA screener.
I went back out of the pen and asked him why he’d diverted me when I hadn’t set off the detector. He said, “Random check.” I said, “Then could you please randomly screen me?” He turned away and ignored me. I went back into my pen.
About two minutes later a supervisor came by. The screener told him I’d been in there over five minutes. The supervisor told another screener, who had been standing near me the entire time, to check me. I was, of course, clean, and sent on my way. As I am chronically early to airports, and my flight is delayed anyway, no harm done, but I sure hated watching my stuff through a plexiglass wall while dozens of people filed by, looking it over, and it all stood ignored by the TSA screeners.
I know the front line TSA guys don’t make policy, but they ought to have service standards. This wasn’t a security issue, it was a staffing issue (presumably) compounded by a communications error.
But what kind of fricking security is it to detain someone with no warnings, and pat-and-wave-on the next raft of guys who set off the detectors?