|Showing off the super-shiny floors at the Miami airport. I remember on the trip down to Ecuador spending the night at the airport while I waited for my early-bird flight. A large crew spent hours overnight polishing the floors.|
Friday, June 18, 2004
We landed in Miami just before dawn and I tottered off the airplane to claim my baggage. I was pleased to see it promptly tumble on to the carousel and I lugged it over to clear customs. I had filled out the required form beforehand and had no difficulty—I breezed through without any inspection. I cleared through U.S. immigration without any problems either.
Now I had to arrange a flight from Miami to Baltimore, which I hadn't done yet. I suppose I could have arranged something via the internet from Easter Island, but I figured I would just do it in Miami once I got there. Frankly, when I purchased my Lan Chile ticket on Easter Island a week ago, Miami and Baltimore seemed so far away and such a minor part of the trip that I didn't even worry about it. I assumed that I would be able to take care of it later.
I found a sympathetic American Airlines ticket agent and explained that I was coming from Easter Island, where there was a Lan Chile office but no other airline offices or travel agents. I also explained that I had arrived at the island by boat, and due to the uncertain schedule, I couldn't reserve a flight ahead of time. She kindly charged me the 14-day advance purchase rate of $109 which saved me about $140 compared to the last-minute rate. The only problem was that the next flight to Baltimore was full, in fact overbooked, so the best she could do was to give me a "standby" ticket for that flight and a confirmed reservation for a later flight. I would have either a six-hour wait or a ten-hour wait, neither one particularly appealing after a very tiring flight from Chile.
With my standby ticket in-hand, I went through the security checkpoint to get to the departure gate. Apparently, flying "one-way" as a walk-up passenger is considered to be suspicious because as soon as they saw my boarding pass, the security attendant shunted me off to the side for a full security inspection. I had to take off my shoes to be X-rayed, my entire body was scanned with the handheld metal detector, and the contents of my two carry-on bags were minutely scrutinized. Welcome back to the U.S.A., fellow citizen. Please submit to a dehumanizing inspection, or else! The really annoying part is that a real terrorist could easily determine the security procedures and could easily come up with a way to circumvent them, so the procedures, stringent and oppressive as they seem, are really just window dressing. Throughout my trip, I didn't have the slightest problem with airline security, except in the United States. There the procedures were no more effective than elsewhere, but were very intrusive and oppressive. I chalk that up to the present-day paranoia that pervades American society, with the full encouragement and assistance of the government.
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