Speaking of getting back in the country, when we landed at Heathrow there was a passport gate for EU Citizens that people were walking through sort of waving their passports, while foreigners stood in line with a zillion other people waiting for a manual passport check and light interrogation. Since we had been in row 41 on the plane, we got to watch 280 other people go before us. Luckily, when we reentered the U.S. at Atlanta -- no wait, it was worse! The foreigners were standing in a line shorter than ours, while the four agents manning the twenty-something U.S. citizen gates quizzed us about how long we were out of the country. I wanted to tell the guy it was none of his business, but assumed that would be counter-productive.
One benefit (maybe the only one) of being in a long queue is that it is a great opportunity to people watch. This time I was interested to see how opinions colored people's perception of our situation. I assumed that the dearth of passport control agents was likely a combination of budget cuts and some calculus concerning how long people would stand in line before becoming too unruly or missing their flights. The lady behind us seemed convinced that there was an agent for every gate, and the rest were apparently lazing around in the back somewhere. Probably playing dominoes. You know how union workers and bureaucrats love their dominoes.
After an hour at passport control, there is the ceremonial claiming of the bags and putting them on a different belt. I can think of no logical reason for this little ritual, except to give people a chance to stash their duty free liquids in their checked bags before going through security. Again.
None of this would have been a problem, except that we were an hour late getting to Atlanta. Only about 15 minutes of that was flying time. There was still a plane at our gate when we landed, and a few babies and old people decided they couldn't wait until we parked to pee, so we sat between two runways for about half an hour. As it was, we got to our gate in plenty of time, our plane left more or less on schedule, and the flight home was uneventful, which is exactly how I like them.
As air travel goes these days it wasn't bad. Except for one cranky little dude on the first overseas flight, the flight attendants were generally friendly, I got to catch up on a few movies, and the person in front of me never tried to lay their seat flat. There was a child under five either directly in front of or behind us on all four flights, but Biscuit got the brunt of that.
|The final session of a conference. This room was full on the first day. Most of the people remaining had something to do with organizing the thing, and are just waiting to receive their appreciation gift.|