Rant about airport traffic officers touched nerve

Whenever a reporter calls out authoritative figures, the reaction is fairly predictable: Critics will question the reporter and supporters will tell their versions of similar experiences.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the traffic officers at McCarran International Airport, and readers have since requested that I publish the responses from others in the community.

I typically do not fill up this limited space with comments from others, but to be truthful the response to that particular column was overwhelming.

All but one of the 50-plus emails I received supported my stance that these guys need a bit of training in how to treat other human beings like human beings. The bulk of the negative reaction fell below the online version of the story where the anonymous are allowed to vent.

My favorite was the guy who surmised that I blew my lid when an officer balked at my big, bad Review-Journal badge, so I rushed back to my computer and vengefully banged away. Not to kill a good story, but I try not to advertise my nerdiness on weekends so the badge remains at home. Plus, it is so faded and tattered, it wouldn’t intimidate a cracked out crack dealer.

A part of me wondered whether the officer who approached the car was just having a bad day. Apparently, they have plenty of bad days.

"There needs to be more heat and light turned on what is obviously a public relations nightmare for McCarran," Dick, a reader, wrote in an email.

More heat? More light? Bring it.

Jon was loading his young daughter into a car seat when he was immediately approached on the south end of the pickup area.

"Those ‘ambassadors’ are part CIA, part mall cop and all annoying push-hards," Jon wrote. "Let’s not forget the tough guy vehicles they trot out that look something from the movie ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ while displaying the verbal diplomacy of Mel Gibson."

Plenty of movie references, none of them on the peaceful level of "Bambi."

"Each time I use the pick-up area it’s like a scene from ‘Schindler’s List,’ " Robert wrote. "The only reason for not having a cellphone area is to ram people into the parking garages to pay for the automated machinery just installed. And that tow truck the airport always parks at the entrance to the pickup area is like a warning of how fast government can be when it wants to be."

Ed teaches a certified customer service class. He believes perhaps these officers should attend.

"I love when they’re giving someone the ‘you’re full of horse manure look’ and the person’s passenger actually is just a few feet away," Ed wrote. "We’re all about customers in this town. I think these people present the worst possible image of what this town is supposed to represent."

Some readers didn’t waste time getting to the point.

"If these idiots ever had any training in dealing effectively and courteously with the public you couldn’t prove it by me," Nancy said. "I’m glad someone with a public forum finally had the nerve to expose this very ‘weak link’ in our city’s first line of contact with tourists."

And Gary: "I know they have a job to do, but it’s a choice of how we deal with other human beings, tourists or not."

The problem also exists at the drop-off area, apparently, where officers are quick to draw their ticket books.

One man said he dropped off his friend who was recovering from two knee replacement surgeries. He hauled the woman’s luggage to the curb and was met by an officer "who was writing a ticket for an abandoned vehicle."

His explanation that he was a few feet away from his car to drop off suitcases didn’t fly. When he asked for the ticket, the officer refused to hand it to him and instead tucked it underneath the windshield wipers.

"Later it occurred to me he could not hand me the ticket because that would have voided the accusation of abandonment," said the reader who goes by "Indian."

"It seemed to me that two older folks struggling with luggage could have been helped rather than penalized and I would have been on my way post haste."

By the way, Indian’s ticket was $150.

OK, OK, here is Tom, the lone email that disagreed with me.

"I must start by saying that the passenger pickup area appears to be haunted," Tom wrote.

People seem to lose a little bit of their natural powers of reasoning when it comes to pulling into the passenger pickup area. Every time I am in the passenger pickup area, I witness all kinds of incredibly stupid acts of driving. No wonder the officers’ nerves are a little frazzled having to deal with these people every day of their job."

Readers also suggested that this is a design flaw that could be fixed. But, as airport officials have said, there is no space for a cellphone waiting lot. So, what other solutions could they come up with? Maybe they should hire Theresa as a consultant.

She suggested that large numbers be painted on the concrete columns along the passenger pickup corridor.

"That way if I’m picking someone up, I can tell them that I will be looking for them at column No. 3 or No. 7 or whatever," she wrote. "They do that at other major airports. I don’t know why they don’t do that here."

Everybody agrees these crossing guard officer guys are needed to keep traffic flowing and prevent the passenger pickup area from becoming gridlock. Maybe they weren’t appreciative of the column, and perhaps they will be offended by your comments as well.

But it appears as though they are starting to get it.

My friend Mike posted this on my Facebook page last week.

"We were at the airport Thursday night picking up one of our sons and watched an airport cop wave his ticket book and scream at some guy driving a huge luxury car. Then the cop yelled, ‘OK, I’m not going to give you a ticket so now you can write a letter to the R-J and tell them how nice we are!’ "

I’d go check it out, but they know what kind of car I drive.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an email to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Include your phone number.

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