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Published: August 20th 2018
Gone but not forgotten.
US immigration is never something to look forward to, but with a bit of patience and a love of queuing you can usually get through it. The patience this time was required a lot earlier than usual, whilst we were still at home. During the online check-in, there were no problems for me, for our son and for our daughter, but the website refused to check-in my wife.
Once we got to the airport, the check-in machines were not co-operating either. Check-in never used to be the highlight of a flight, but we found ourselves pining for the days when there was a human being doing the check-in for you. All we were getting now was an obstinate “computer says no”. There was a person there to help, but he had a crowd of people swarming around him, all wondering what was wrong with the good old days. Eventually we managed to get his help and apparently my wife had been singled out by US Homeland Security for additional checks, which would take place when we reached the gate.
Next was the bag-drop and again there we had to do that ourselves (scan the boarding passes, scan the passports,
We just wanted to get to bed though.
print the labels and attach them to the bags). Again, it was fine for my son and I. Again there were problems for my wife and, this time, it also didn’t seem to like our daughter. Again, we eventually managed to get a human being to help.
Next there were the barriers through to security. Again, no humans and again problems getting through.
Next there was security. Again, there were problems for my wife and our daughter. Mind you, this time it was not helped by a bottle of water and some make-up (grrr…. these rules are not new).
After something to eat and some shopping (yes, we actually did some shopping in the Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Tiffany pompous parade of pretense which is Heathrow Terminal Five, but it was nothing that an extension to our mortgage won’t help with) it was time to go to the gate to find out what was in store for my poor lovely wife.
Sure enough a list of names were called out and she was one of them (there were about half a dozen) and it was off for the additional checks, which consisted of various swabs of her and her hand luggage, which were then tested for any chemical residue - drugs or explosives apparently. She was told that these checks are not random, so who knows what Homeland Security now have on file about her.
We thought it was strange that they did not want to search the rest of us as well, not that I would have been prepared to be her drugs mule.
I’m writing this on the plane - so we have 10 hours to wonder what is in store for us when we arrive.
We’ve arrived and US immigration was not the experience that we were expecting. The whole non-human thing has now reached an unbelievable level. As we had used our ESTAs before, we were able to join the fast track queue along with all the US citizens. And that was all automatic. We had to scan out passports, pose for a picture and scan our finger prints after which we were given a printed slip. There was a human at the end who just collected the slips and stamped the passports.
Strangely, it was a lot easier to get into America than it was to pick-up a hire car. Avis, apparently, did not have any of the cars that we had ordered so we had a choice to take a smaller one or to pay extra for a large one. There were some arguments, which we didn’t win, plus the usual hour worth of data entry into a computer.
Another customer actually came up to us and apologised on behalf of America. He hoped it was not our first trip to America and hence our first experience of how they treat visitors.
As we were driving into Seattle, we were following a very cool looking black car full of kids who were clearly enjoying their music. We had to turn our air conditioning off though as it was pulling in air from outside and we were getting the pungent smell of all the weed smoke from their car, most of which seemed to be coming out of the driver’s window.
We went to our usual and our favourite, the Cheesecake Factory for a meal in the evening. There was a forty minute wait so it gave me an excuse to chill with a beer whilst the others went to look round some shops. At $7.98 (£6.25 - bloody Brexit) for something that was considerably smaller than a pint, I wasn’t that chilled though.
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