When I finally got to PDX after waiting 3 hours after missing my 6am flight from SJC, these are the thoughts that came to me when I walked past that guy.
1. This job sucks because he has no friends. He doesn't get to chat with fellow employees about their tired feet and their noisy neighbor and their plans for the weekend. You need at least one person there, like conquered territories in Axis and Allies, but you it's not a main area and you don't really need to worry about a big rush of people moving upstream wrong way past security. He's only there because it would be stupid to leave the "how about I keep my laptop in my bak and my jacket on my back and just walk past this empty stool." That guy is bored, his job is to look for something interestingly suspicious, but mostly just sits by himself quietly, not listening to music, not hearing gossip, not interacting socially at all.
2. If he suddenly is useful, it is never for an exciting reason. I can't think of the last time the plan of the dangerous persons was to blatantly go the wrong way through a bureaucratic security checkpoint that requires you have 1. valid I.D. 2. valid ticket 3. no sharp or wet things. If that TSA man ever actively stops someone, its going to be an old person who is confused, a baby who is running aimlessly, or someone who wants to hug their loved one 5 steps sooner than the government would standardly prefer them to, someone trying to see their loved one around just a little more of the corner. what an everyday hero this man could be in his finest hour in this occupation.
3. What he does get to see, 90% of the time is people tired bored annoyed frumpy in a hurry preoccupied passing him from behind and the highlight of the job might become seeing other people reunited with their cousin/grandmother/son/college buddy/aunt but then, how many of those do you have to see to start thinking about who would come to greet you, who has, who hasn't in the past, who you would be willing to pick up, how lonely you are there with your walkie-talkie and stupid shapeless uniform pants with people noise all around for 8 hours a day. that is a hell made entirely from other people. Think about it the next time you watch the end of Love, Actually.
4. In broader terms, I feel like working at an airport has got to be the biggest depressing existential metaphore for anyone, working in a place where everyone is going places but you. You move the luggage for exotic places, sell souvenirs for your own town that you live in and don't think is so special, take tickets to places that require passport stamps without ever necessarily going to any of those destinations. Sure airline blah blah stewardesses and pilots go, but compared to the big pie chart of airport jobs, they are not actually there that much and do not make up the majority of jobs.
Anyway, I welcome further suggestions for bad (not gross) jobs. Jobs that will eventually destroy one's dignity, sense of self-worth, and/or hope in the kindness of humanity. I understand that the guy sitting at the security exit probably rotates into other jobs where he gets to pester and bore countless passengers, but any time in that seat is time wasted, no, time sucked out of one's lifesource, like the machine in Princess Bride.
Suggested musical accompaniment for this post: TSA Gangstaz by Zack Selwyn. Warning: excessive boob grab/ wand up a skirt.