Thursday, 5 January 2017

Transit

My flight to Los Angeles was relatively non-descript, if you can get past the fact there's over 10,000km of open ocean between you and your destination and any fault will surely mean a long swim to oblivion, you'll be fine. There's not much to sea.

The stopover in L.A. was 2 hours, a chance to stretch the legs, get a drink, use a less fearful toilet and take in the surroundings of a place I'd not been before, airport or no.

I was in transit and having completed my transit visa (I did complete it in time let's remember) I was expecting to hop off and on my plane after it refuelled with little bother. How wrong I was.

Americans love two things, yelling at you and yelling at each other. The ground staff had both bases covered as the cascade of travellers from my flight were met off the plane. Thick Latino accents filled the air and at least one "you don't know me", I was handed a large teal transit pass and ushered onwards.

Downstairs was bedlam, the mayhem of the chaos causing me to run out of adjectives.

We were funnelled into queues whether we liked it or not, there was very little decision making on anyone's part.

The QueueMaster Retractable Barriers are functional yet affordable retractable belt barriers, which come with a 3 year manufacturer's warranty and key safety features such as belt lock and a slow retract braking system. An ideal low cost solution for forming customer queues and the Americans couldn't get enough of them.

No sooner would we be in line, than a belt would be removed here, replaced there, the entire flow of traffic splintering and wavering in a cacophony of uncertain groans and dismay. My teal transit pass could only buy me so many shortcuts, others were not so lucky. You felt like you were saying goodbye to family for the last time, would you see them again? You didn't know.

I was pointed to one of the American paranoia machines, despite only being in transit it would glean as much information as it could from me including pictures and fingerprints. The interface was cumbersome, the fine print detailed and the constant critiquing of the fact I hadn't finished in record time only added to the anxiety.

I reluctantly placed my fingers on the fingerprint scanner, rejected. A slip falls out of the machine and I'm told to move on. I didn't know it at the time, but the reason I was rejected was because my little fingers were too short.. yup.

Another queue, more tension, more yelling, more whiz bang opening and closing of QueueMaster Retractable Barriers than you have ever seen. You'd be in front of someone, then ages behind them, crossing in zig zags everyone exchanging looks of total disbelief, the how's and why's beyond any of us.

I was to be processed by a human being and the clock was ticking. My thoughts of a drink and a go on the toilet long since dissipated, the only thing on my mind was my travel insurance and whether it would cover this. I reached my man, no chit chat, what was my business here, I was grilled, fingerprinted, re-photographed, glared at and sent on my way.

Holy shisskebabs Batman, America is a ridiculous place.

Oh but if this ordeal was over, ushered through more doorways, narrow hallways, escalators and wouldn't you know it, QueueMaster Retractable Barriers. It was time to strip down, unpack all of your belongings and stand in a x-ray machine listening to the female staff have a good laugh. They laughed the whole time, for everyone, at least someone was enjoying this.

Suddenly in the midst of a grand hall full of food and beverages, all I could do was hustle past them, smacking my lips, staring longingly at the drinks on display. It felt like slow motion, but this was a race. My mind, body and soul still reeling from the effort to even get this far over the previous days, the world seemed surreal and cartoon like, but this was America.

My flight was a long way through boarding as I ran up to the gate, I handed over my boarding pass as the violation of the USA hit me. 2 hours I'd never get back from a nation I hope I don't see again soon.


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