TSA pre-check is designed to expedite travelers through the security process. Such travelers have been vetted as minimal security risks and given preferred treatment getting to their departing airplanes. On Christmas morning, 2018, I stood in a long line waiting to pass through manifesting proof that government officials fail to understand human behavior and have created one of the slowest, most painstaking, and expensive security processes in the civilized world.

My goal, when going through security, is to fly under the radar. I want to bring as little attention to myself as possible to be efficiently processed. The TSA professional directing traffic at the security booth had an “I’m better than you” energy as he processed people through the checkpoint. With each passenger, his patience grew less, and he began a sequence of eye-rolling and air leaks when people failed to respond quickly enough, that is, according to his immaculate perception.

Not wanting to be the recipient of his contempt, I calculated his cadence and tried to anticipate his directive. When he got to me, he changed his cadence and I moved too early. I received a pronounced “eye roll” and an exaggerated air leak. It was Christmas Day and fellow travelers were in good spirits, chatting things up waiting in line (pre-COVID-19 protocols), and I felt my spirits quickly go to the dark side.

My son, Samuel, traveling with me got separated by a few passengers, so I continued to observe my “TSA Napoleonic general” marshal folks through the beeping machine. The elderly lady in front of my son increased the little general’s ire, and he contemptuously muttered a few comments about the density of people today as he fully expected his objects to read his mind and dutifully obey.

Samuel also miscalculated the general’s cadence and received his emotional punishment along with everyone else on that Winter day of celebration. After judging my son, the general turned his attention to the next target and I felt my fight or flight mode kick in. So, I lowered myself to his level and shared an unsolicited suggestion that he take some emotional intelligence classes to more productively work with humans instead of treating them as objects. He didn’t appreciate my comments and returned my unsolicited advice with some of his own.

What made me think that anything I would share with him, especially in a flooded moment, could possibly be received with gratitude and a willingness to be open and reflective on my professional, accurate, and angry advice? What did I know in that moment that wasn’t true?

Post Office

In another example, standing in line at the post office is filled with the awareness of government’s remarkable ability to foster great entrepreneurial creations such as UPS and FedEx. Last week, in the spirit of, “What do you know that isn’t so,” a gentleman walked past the dozen or so patrons cue’d up, socially distanced, patient, and waiting for a faceless, unmotivated postal worker to wait on them. He carried a large-sized parcel and as he attempted to place the said parcel in a slot that was half the size of his parcel, a similarly aged female patron couldn’t take his lack of awareness.

One could feel her contempt for the gentleman. After trying and failing multiple times, Ethel (the name seems to fit) offered a rather biting direction of where the right slot was. That seemed to waken her sense of being socially disconnected from the world, so she searched for another person to objectify. 

Standing in the back of the line was a young, unmasked couple, waiting their turn to drop off a parcel into the slots allocated for boxes. They waited their turn and unceremoniously slid their cargo into a medium-sized slot and exited. As they passed by our negative-energy generator, she couldn’t help herself and following a drawn-out air slip, she sarcastically shared, “well, we know who are the next COVID-19 cases in Williamson County.”

While it’s easy to see maladaptive behavior in others, sometimes it’s challenging to see it in ourselves. In this spirit, did you pick up the sarcastic overtures toward the government that permeates this article? Following the crowd today means to be easily offended and quick with an unsolicited criticism, opinion, or a sarcastic bite to put someone in their place.

Our political and business leaders, not to mention Hollywood, are great examples of “What do I know that isn’t so.” You will not change the world on a macro basis by practicing civility, but you can on a micro-level. One conversation at a time.