I don’t know what it is about arriving in a foreign country that just gets my adrenalin going. I’m sure it must include a lot of factors such as the excitement for an upcoming adventure, the myriad people standing in line with you from virtually every country in the world, and perhaps the elation of being able to feel your buttocks again after being in a plane seat for so long. But what is really exciting to me is that there is a person that is going to make a judgment call as to whether you are going to be allowed into their country, and I don’t care where you’re from, if they say “no,” the answer is “no.” And based on what I’ve seen in the past whining and being indignant doesn’t seem to help.
Of course the experience varies by country and I’ve noticed that the more socialist and the least developed the country is the more bureaucracy you’re likely to be subjected to. This is typically pretty harmless stuff and if you mess up a step you are most likely able to get it fixed. An example of this is Egypt. When I visited there many years ago, one person took my passport, the second stamped it (Thump, thump), a third person put a little sticker in it, and a fourth person handed it back to me. I’m sure they thought they were being intimidating and that they looked very official, but I found it a little amusing really.
Then there are countries like Australia that take all the sport out of it. This morning at the Sydney Airport, I entered an immigration hall that was fully staffed with quick-moving lines. Within just a couple of minutes I stepped in front of a very pleasant young woman that really put me off my game for a few seconds because she said something very unexpected like “Good morning sir, welcome to Australia.” Thump. Thump. I got myself all worked up for a courteous pleasantry and thump, thump? It was very disappointing really.
But, oh yes. Being an American I always get the pleasure of being greeted by US Immigration on my return home. For some reason they always pick on me by asking 20 Questions. How long were you gone? What was the purpose of your trip? What do you do for a living? You’re a little young to be retired aren’t you(said while looking over dirty reading glasses)? Did you break any laws while you were away? What countries did you visit (thumb through passport without even looking at it)? Thump, thump. “Next…hurry up.” Now that’s more like it!
Now that I have my Global Entry pass and I’m going to be able to skip this step coming home, it hardly seems worth the effort of travelling anymore. I’ll bet the darn machine will even say “Good morning sir, welcome home.” And I’m going to look at it and say: Have you been to Australia? How long were you there? What was the purpose of your trip? You’re a little late to learn manners don’t you think? And then I’m going to discretely bang it on the side twice. Thump, thump.