I am currently in my hometown. To get here required two layovers and roughly 23 hours of travel. It is never a fun experience making my way from Abu Dhabi back to the States, especially when I think it’s smart to save money by taking more layovers. And then it is often made worse by ridiculous airline procedures. Here is a list of things that made it particularly bad this time around:
- Being frisked in France. I purposefully wear no jewelry and simple clothes and flip flops, so there is no chance anyone would think I am hiding anything and the metal detectors never go off. However, the metal detectors are also programmed to randomly flag people who don’t actually make them go off. Which happened to me in the Paris airport and led to a lady running her hands all over me for zero reason. She was quick about it, but it was still very uncomfortable.
- Being repeatedly asked security questions. In Paris, I was switching from an airline based in the Gulf to an American airline. Thus I got called to the counter to verify my identity and be asked if I packed my own bags. (As if anyone says no to that.) And then, perhaps because I was so obviously amused at the stupidity of the routine when the first lady did it, (she was a bitch about it, and I smirked at her hardcore throughout,) they called me up yet again to ask me who packed my bags. The second lady also asked me if I had bought my phone new. And the honest answer is no, my friend gave it to me for free. So then she asked if it was a friend I knew a long time, in a leading manner that made it obvious I should just say yes. But honestly, no. I’ve known her less than a year. So I told her that, but she just moved on to the next question. Why ask these ridiculous fucking questions if there’s no wrong answer and you’re not actually going to consider anything a security threat? I mean, I’m sure ISIS preps its recruits for up to a year no problem; why wasn’t my answer sketchy?
- Having my bags searched by customs. When I finally arrived in Chicago, I went through the electronic system where you take a sketchy selfie in the machine. And then you still have to go to the counters. And then apparently I had been flagged, for god knows what reason, to have my bags searched. So when I got there, the dude first assumes I’m coming straight from Poland because Chicago is full of Polish and I am obviously of such heritage. But dude, I’m wearing sweats and carrying a duffel bag; I scream American-born. And then he starts going through my shit, which is invasive as hell, while asking me questions that to be honest, I don’t feel like fucking answering. It’s none of your business whether or not I wear an abaya or if I live on a compound. (Which gave away just how little the dude knew about Abu Dhabi, so fuck off.) And then he asked me if I was carrying over $10,000. Which is actually the one customs issue that I might breach, coming from Abu Dhabi (which confused me and made me wonder if maybe he did know more than nothing.) I paused a little before saying no, so he asked, “Are you sure?” And I repeated my no, but still hesitatingly, doing the math in my head because I did have lots of cash on me. But then, when he found my huge wads of cash (which totaled about $5000, but in foreign currency that obviously he doesn’t know anything about) he didn’t bother to count how much it actually was. So seriously, what the hell is the point of all this rigmarole?
And while I don’t blame the individuals, per se, they were all also very bitchy about it. The customs guys were especially awful. After I arrived, a group of foreigners also got flagged and there was this stupid red line you were supposed to wait behind, even though there were like ten customs guys standing around doing nothing, and no people in the line. So the foreigners start moving forward towards a desk that is obviously the next place to go, and two different people start yelling at them: “Stay behind the red line! Can’t you read the sign!” Like… chill the fuck out! And also, maybe they can’t read the sign…. idiots.
Fingers crossed I got my fair share of airport security bullshit and won’t face any more travel annoyances this summer!