A TSA agent helps travelers through the security line.

Traveling Internationally During the Government Shutdown

When I rolled up to the TSA security checkpoint this morning at 4:30 AM MST, I was aware of a number of important facts.

The first thing I knew was that this whole thing is going to happen and that I’m actually going to Exeter to view the Exeter Book live and in person. By extension, I also knew that I needed to get a lot of writing done on this trip so I can, one fine day, graduate and move on to something else in my life, but mostly I was just focused on the fact that I had somehow managed to convince important people that I was a legitimate scholar with legitimate business looking at a thing that is essentially just as significant and unique as, say, the Mona Lisa, but is around two and a half times as old. Truthfully, such a thought really doesn’t leave my brain much right now.

The second was that, of all mornings, mother nature had chosen this morning to bring snow to the Albuquerque area. Indeed, this was only the second instance of significant precipitation in months. As a result, thing #2 started poking at thing #1 and trying to insinuate that it would be necessary to worry about Albuquerque International Sunport closing for weather. Hooray me.

The third, and perhaps worst, thing was that, thanks to the dysfunction of our governmental bodies, I was heading to the airport approximately 26 hours after Washington had stopped paying its bills, or at least some of them. Mind you, the necessary mechanisms of our national interest would still continue to spin for a little bit, so of course the TSA was up and running. What was completely undetectable to me at 4:30 in the morning, however, was that the officers ensuring that I was who I said I was and that I had legitimate business in the business end of the airport were, in fact, not getting paid for this.

Think about that for just a second; they were there at a time of day when even my father is still home and in bed, doing what they do because it needs to be done, all hoping it wouldn’t be too long before they started getting paid again. However annoyed I had ever been with airport security, I had to admit that these agents were doing their duty despite getting a raw deal from their governmental bosses. I hope that my bleary-eyed attempts at expressing my respect and thanks came across better than I’m afraid they did; they were certainly genuine.

Of course, putting in the time despite not getting paid for it is something of a hallmark of those who work in higher education. The professors under whom I work at the University of New Mexico, for example, are often underpaid; the English faculty as a whole are, according to a study by UNM’s Provost office, doing much more poorly than their counterparts at other universities, with over half coming in at under the CUPA median, while TAs often work for less than a barista makes. For the record, too, I would be seriously surprised to hear that any of these individuals work a minute less than 50 hours per week.

So yes, I have a lot of respect and sympathy for the TSA agents who were there, not cutting corners or letting anything slide just because they weren’t going to see a dime of pay for their efforts, at least for a while. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell objected to an attempt to ensure that the military would be paid regardless of this whole shutdown mess, saying he was still hoping to resolve everything without such a measure. Of course, what he meant was that he wanted the Democrats to take the fall for folks in the services not getting paid, and holding them as hostages was the only way to do that. All this while the folks with the votes still get paid, by the way…

So yeah, stay strong, victims of our governmental dysfunction. We’re all watching the unnecessary drama of the #trumpshutdown unfold, and whatever happens, please know that you’re not alone.

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