Jane and I just returned from a wonderful 10 day cruise of the Mediterranean and 4 days in Venice. I’ve got lots of funny stuff about that. What I want to share with you is our experience returning back to the US.
We flew directly from Venice into Atlanta. Before we landed the crew made it clear to point out the “new and improved” immigration process for United States citizens. “Ok” I thought, no long lines getting the “third degree” and trying to convince a customs agent that you ARE a non-threatening American citizen whose only desire at the moment is to pee and reset your biological clock. All this, while being careful not to mention that you are having trouble understanding HIS accent.
Back to the new and improved immigration system… You leave the plane, you follow a long and winding path to the immigration area where a series of para-customs agents divide the crowd into two distinct groups: 1 US citizens 2 Non-US citizens. Simple?
The US citizens are all directed to a series of machines—yep machines. You touch the screen to start. From here it gets ugly. A sign pops up on the machine (in English) that says “Choose your language.” Again, that sign is IN English. Now here’s the rub; at least for me. A list of languages pops up. The list STARTS with Spanish! Next is Creole, then Arabic, then French, then at the bottom…..English. Sorry, but that just pisses me off.
I clicked on “English” The instruction then tells you to insert your passport, smile for the camera and answer a series of question. It’s the usual barrage of customs questions: What did you buy? Where did you visit? Did you swim in a septic tank? Did you play with any fungus? And….. are you carrying any fruit? The machine then gives you a piece of paper with your answers and a tiny photo of you. The instructions at the bottom of the paper are clear enough; DONE--PROCEED TO EXIT. But wait shoppers, there’s more. There is no exit. There’s an exit line.
I estimated there were at least two hundred people “proceeding to exit.” We were all waiting to see ONE agent who picked up our papers and asked ONE question. FORTY FIVE minutes later, Jane and I approached this agent (nine empty stalls, ONE agent) and he took our papers and said, “Are you carrying any fruit?” That was it! I was about to say, “Are you shitting me?” Jane kicked me. We thanked him and moved on to pick up our luggage.
We got our bags and headed for customs. As we headed to the exit the customs agent stopped me, looked at my docs and said, “Are you carrying any fruit?” He didn’t say, “Is there a weapon of mass destruction in your bag? Are you carrying and explosive devices? Are you smuggling cocaine? Are you a sex trafficker?” Nope….fruit!” You have no idea how much safer I feel now knowing my home and family is being protected from fruit. More later.