Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New year, old romance

My flight from London had touched down in Detroit at 11:45am EST. It was now past 2pm and I had spent the last two hours of this fresh new year standing in the line before American border control.

For me, the standard question of "Why do you want to visit the United States of America?" had the simple -- if slightly obnoxious -- answer of "I don't." My intention was to take a connecting flight to Buffalo, collect my car and scoot over the border back to Canada. Because of this audacious plan, I had struggled with my customs form which demanded to know the full street address of where you would be staying while in the USA. After a moments consideration, I had scrawled 'Canada' in that box with the idea that this was either an issue they dealt with frequently, or they just wouldn't notice that Canada wasn't part of America. Of course, this did require me making my connecting flight. The 3.5 hour layover was starting to look woefully inadequate.

As I looked down the snake-like line of people waiting with me, I realized I was probably sharing these dilemmas with a sizable fraction of the room. American security demands that incoming international flights go through US customs, even if you are simply connecting through the airport to leave the country directly again.

I idled away the time imagining all the irritating answers I'd like to give to the humorless border control guards if I had less sense and a taste for prison food, and watched while a couple of students were carted away for forgetting their I-20 work permits.

Finally, after another 20 minutes of waiting, I was third from the front of the queue. Another student was taken away, probably to be sent to the modern equivalent of hard labor in Detroit's failing automobile industry. Second in line...

Due to a nation-wide error, we are have a problem with our computers and cannot process passengers at this time.

I raised my head slowly to look up at the intercom that just broadcast this announcement. It appeared the USA border control and I would be starting 2011 as we undoubtedly intended to continue.

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