Peggy Noonan describes her experiences with airport security: If Cattle Flew
. I cannot say that my experience with flying after 9/11 has been as bitter as Peggy's. Security and Customs officials have been unfailingly polite and smiling and the one time I got pulled over for a special security check (along with my luggage), the security officials were pleasant, patient, and they tried to quell the tension with small chat and a joke. At the end, they politely wished me a safe journey.
Ms Noonan felt very sorry for a mom traveling with a small child, the mom had to take her sneakers off and the child had to pass through the magnetometer twice and probably got scared. In her article she ascribed feelings to the child, such as "anxious" and "scared", and the mother was "tense" and "flustered".
Of course traveling with a small child is always difficult, and some experiences are probably scary for children, but I think that in the years since 9/11, most parents have done a good job of explaining security checks to children and preparing them for airport lines and their toys being checked. Children that I've observed while in line, promptly put their backpacks and anything they were holding in the gray basket and passed through and waited to get them on the other side. It didn't seem like they were experiencing a traumatic event. I've also noticed that kids and people who are wearing sneakers, start untying them and taking them off while they're waiting in line.
Those were my observations as a passenger. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for TSA employees to deal with long lines of disgruntled passengers and if I was working for TSA I don't think I would be happy to see passengers like Ms Noonan making fun of my accent or giving me advice about how to do my job.
As for the man who had to give up his $800 gold lighter to a stranger because he wasn't allowed to take it on the plane with him, perhaps he should learn to travel with a Bic.