Unfortunately, the advancement of aeroplane travel has still not extended to include fuel economy of the scale that will afford a jumbo to travel 12,000 miles. For that purpose, a return trip to UK from down under requires that we make a pit-stop in USA. For pit-stop, I mean exactly that, a refuel, load on some more mediocre food and a change of crew. Not a problem, you say, just a chance to stretch the legs and use a proper toilet. But hang on; this is USA, so let’s no assume simplicity. After all, it means we mortals would have to be allowed to step on hallowed turf and, for that pleasure, we would have to be identified.
Firstly, unless we have a US visa, which we do not, we must pay $14 for the right to arrive in USA without one. We have to do this online, which includes entering all our personal and credit card details into a system while an overhead camera records our input. This, in itself, I consider to be a rather dodgy process, as anyone who wishes to illegally retrieve the security tape would be able to do some pretty decent dining out on all those card numbers. So now, for every person entering the US, they already have our secure payment details, and our money, in their system before we even touch down. After being crowded into a holding pen, we are summoned to once again clear immigration, despite us doing this before we originally boarded the plane and our identities already being in the ‘system’. Here it gets a little more intense. When asked by the pan-faced custom’s officer to hold up my right hand, I really thought he was going to make me swear my allegiance to the President or, at the very least, sing two verses of the Star Spangled Banner. But no, this was to take my finger prints, like a common criminal. Then a photo opportunity, smile for the camera, so this too can go on record. So here we are, after one hour on US soil, giving just about every personal detail we possess to the American system. I only just refrained from showing the guy my arse for his files too.
A quick trip to toilet, I note the disabled cubicle is so huge you could turn a lorry in there, let alone a wheelchair, and we are herded back onto the plane once more.
A sign says, USA welcomes visitors! It didn’t welcome me and I didn’t welcome it. Does this country live with permanent paranoia? Or maybe I am becoming a homophobe?