Transit Security Administration employee Mark Roberts brings laser-focused attention to detail to his position at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
As Roberts put it, “The second you put on that uniform, you gotta be on. That’s the job.”
Among the challenges faced by Roberts and other TSA agents on a daily basis, is ensuring that no bottled beverages make it past the security checkpoint. He explained that even now, despite TSA's clear and well-publicized guidelines, many airline passengers attempt to bring bottled water through security.
“People still don’t get it,” said Roberts with a rueful shrug. “They don’t understand that it’s all fluids, no matter if it’s Coke, Pepsi, water, or even iced tea. They think just ‘cause it’s water it’s okay. It ain’t. All fluids,” he emphasized.
For those desiring to reuse their plastic bottle, Roberts recommends drinking the contents of a bottled beverage before approaching the security checkpoint, bringing the empty bottle through security, and then refilling from a water fountain near the departure gate.
“No problem with empty bottles,” he said. “Empty is A.O.K.”
Roberts noted that another source of traveler discontent is the strict size limitation on such liquid toiletries as lotions, gels, and shampoos. “Travel-sized, three-point-four ounces, one hundred milliliters, that’s it,” said Roberts. “People get upset when we confiscate toiletries for exceeding these limits. I get it, personal care products are expensive, but that’s the limit. Nothing I can do.”
And an ongoing part of the duties of a TSA employee is maintaining order amidst the often-long lines at the security checkpoints.
“You always got some joker trying to cut the line, sneak past everyone else and avoid the wait. Not on my watch,” said Roberts.
More than anything else, though, said Roberts, he aims to make airport security a process that travelers can feel good about. “I try to make it as enjoyable an experience as possible,” he said. “Attitude is everything.”