British Invasion: Fight or flight

Ed Gove '14, Opinion Editor, Online Editor

Let me tell you about flying. It’s easy. Even a moron could do it, and if you’ve been on a flight, you’ll know that a lot of them do. For those of you who have never flown anywhere, let me break it down for you.

You book a flight. This is possibly the toughest bit as you probably couldn’t do it with your hands tied behind your back. But don’t stress, it gets simpler. You arrive at the appropriate airport at the appropriate time. This bit you could do with your hands tied behind your back. Then you check in, go through security and get on your plane. You sit down and wait until someone tells you to get off the plane. You get your passport stamped (you do need a passport. I forgot about that. Everything suddenly seems much more complicated.) Then you collect your bags and leave the airport.

That’s it. It’s easy. Unless you are flying to America.

Flying into America is akin to peeing on an electric fence – you have to really need to go. It’s horrendous. Getting out is easy. Its a simple matter of following the above steps. They don’t care who leaves, only who comes in. I have flown into America four times now and visited JFK and Miami airports, LAX and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport. They all suck.

Flying in to a country shouldn’t be tricky. You’ve already been security checked. They’ve scanned your passport. They know you are coming but for some reason American immigration are eternally surprised to see you. It’s like its their first day every day. How hard is it to say, “Okay, please look into the camera. What is the purpose of your visit? Can you put your fingers on the scanner?” I can do it and I don’t have a big shiny hat.

I actually do. And it’s brilliant.

For spring break I travelled with some friends down to Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful country and well worth a visit but the journey home was dreadful! We had a layover in Miami for two hours. If you don’t know what a layover is, its where you get off a plane and then get on another plane. It’s a snack-break with a special name.

Miami is awful. The worst place in the world. Ever. I mean, I’ve never left the airport but I love to make judgements on things I know nothing about. What can I say? I’ve been here 6 months, I’ve culturally assimilated. We had two hours to get to our next flight. Which was apparently not enough.

America prides itself on being a global superpower but you can’t even arrange a line. North Korea can do lines. They love lines. But you guys couldn’t arrange a line if your domestic security depended on it. Which it does.

At every other country in the world, you line up and you snake your way through to the front of the line, hand over your passport, and carry on with your life. Not in America. Here, you get off your plane, run to immigration and dive into the seething mass of exhausted, angry people. There’s punching, kicking, biting, someone drop-kicked a toddler… It’s dangerous in there. Then, when you have eventually made your way through the war zone you’re at the front of the queue talking to someone who takes their job too seriously:

“Stand on the line… Not behind the line… no, now you’re in front of the line… I said on the line. Your toes are over the line. I want to turn your feet out like you’re a penguin so that you stay on the line. Good. Now put your arms straight down and turn your hands out flat. That’s it. Now squawk. Perfect. Welcome to America.”

What?! It took us 30 minutes to get through all of that. I’m just not a very good penguin. I do a fantastic squirrel impression though, so look out for that.

You may think that is enough standing around, but you’d be wrong. Because you need to do it again. You have to collect your bags and then stand in another ginormous line for ages so that you can file past a bored looking woman reading a newspaper who occasionally jabs at something with a pen to no effect. She also looks at your passport again, because you may have stopped being who you were when someone looked at your passport half an hour ago.

Then, when you have done all that, you have to recheck your bags. As in the bags that you have literally just picked up? You have to give them back to the people who just gave them to you. Because that is a good use of everyone’s time.

Next you go through security. Again. Just in case you passed the time in one of the various massive unnecessary queues by building a bomb.

Last year I flew to Vietnam from London with an 8 hour layover in Dubai. I checked my bags in London and picked them up in Vietnam. Easy. I went through customs and immigration in Vietnam. Easy. Why do you guys require such a lot of effort?

Flying is super quick and easy. Flying to America is like trying to put out a bush fire with your face.