Manchester to Newark
After an early Christmas and countless goodbyes we set off for the airport the day before we were due to fly.
It is bad enough having your sleep messed up by constantly changing time zones but to start the process tired is silly. We would have had to set the alarm about 3.30 am to get to the airport the three hours before flying required by airlines . So by travelling up the day before and staying at the hotel linked to the airport by a short walkway we got an extra couple of hours sleep.
This was our first time flying with an American airline so we were interested as to whether check-in was any different. The check-in line did its usual zig zag backwards and forwards but at the halfway point to the check-in desk there was a line of blue lecterns behind which stood a middle-aged ladies.
When it was our turn she asked for our passports and then chatted to us. It wasn’t until we had our passports returned that ML and I realised that this apparently friendly lady had during her little chat with us gleaned quite a lot of information. At this point ML turned into ‘Conspiracy Man’ and decided that everything we had said had been recorded and we were as we queued being profiled.
Of course you then start looking for things, you can see how people become paranoid and this was before we were sleep deprived.
While we had been queueing the staff of the airline had been walking up and down answering questions but one of them just didn’t fit. He wasn’t young but despite the tailoring of his jacket you could see that he had wide shoulders tapering down to a narrow waist, it wasn’t obvious that he was very fit and had a hint of military about him but if you looked closely you could see in the way he moved and held himself. I don’t think we realised until that point how important and proactive Americans are with regards to security.
We were to see more of this at the immigration point at Newark where despite just being in transit we were fingerprinted, photographed and questioned. I don’t think anyone has stared at me that closely in a long time even ML.
The only light moment after what was a long wait in the immigration queue was after being stared at for what was an uncomfortably long time (was he counting my freckles) the immigration officer scowled and said ‘You have different glasses on’. You would think that the considering the time he had perused my passport he would have noticed that it has just under a year left which means my passport photograph is nine years old. I explained that I had changed glasses at least five times since then and laughed, not a flicker of emotion crossed his face as he stamped my passport.
Note to self – US Immigration Officers have a horrible job and leave their sense of humour at home.
They finally let us both in and we had to then navigate a new airport. ML does not do well in new airports he was also by now suffering severe nicotine withdrawal. Turns out that your luggage doesn’t automatically go to your next flight, you have to collect your luggage join another long queue and then hand it back to a man who scans it and tells you which terminal you need to be at.
Travel between terminals is via the Airtrain and once in the new terminal ML found a door to the outside world and hurried off to pollute his lungs leaving me with all the hand luggage before we went through more security checks.
A much calmer ML and I headed towards the most enormous queue, an airport worker checked our Boarding Pass and it turns out we were TSA pre-checked, I am assuming it was because we had already been checked at are departure airport – at this point we didn’t care why just that we were sent to a different queue with only ten people in it.
Now at this stage I ought to explain that it doesn’t matter which country I am travelling from, through or too I always get stopped at security. I’ve had my hand luggage emptied out completely umpteen times – ML thinks it is because I have so much electrical equipment in it but who knows.
I’ve been patted down because the metal detector has beeped despite not wearing any metal, had the explosive sniffer on me and my luggage countless times and on one memorable occasion in Amman was taken into a little room with a lady dressed in black robes and searched (this was over 30 years ago).
So I should have expected it but it came as somewhat of a surprise when I was singled out for a full body scan (Millimetre Wave Scanner). I had to stand in a clear tubular cubicle with my hands in the air and be still, somebody called out ‘Woman in scanner’. ML informed me when I came out that it was the scan that makes clothes invisible – par for the course as far as I am concerned. The sign above my head that says stop me is obviously still working – ML says that it’s my ‘shifty eyes’, cheeky devil.
To be continued.