Welcome to the QueueSA
Rights, what rights?
The United States of America — The home of the free, the land of the brave. A western epitaph of opportunity and entitlement where every man is equal, each with a tangible hope of achieving the elusive “American Dream.”
Growing up in the UK, I have become accustomed to being treated by the authorities with respect and parity and indeed, my experience of law enforcement agencies in countries across the world has been similarly pleasant. With the notable exception of the US.
I recently attempted to cross the land border between British Columbia — Canada and Washington State — in the US. One might expect a land crossing like this to run smoothly and efficiently but, on the contrary, I was faced with over three hours of waiting and treated startlingly like a criminal with scorn and disrespect.
Arriving at the crossing, there was a huge volume of backed up traffic — caused by only a fraction of the booths actually being manned. This was irritating but nothing out of the ordinary — it was the series of events following my reaching the front of the queue that really bothered me. I was directed inside the main building in order to get my passport stamped — a simple administrative procedure which I’m sure could have been completed without me leaving my car. But leave my car I did, making my way inside, and planting myself firmly at the back of yet another queue which couldn’t have been more than fifty people long, most of whom had come in groups. I foolishly imagined that with so relatively few people, I’d make good progress and be able to get back on the road before long — how comically mistaken I was.
Whilst there were TSA (Transportation Security Association) agents physically present at the desk, it soon became apparent that they had matters far more pressing than dealing with those pesky civilians. I can only presume that the sullen looking gentlemen manning the computers were updating their fantasy team, or perhaps watching cat videos on YouTube — I see no other reason why it would take in excess of 45 minutes to process two individuals — neither of whom took more than five minutes to pass through. It was a painful, attritional cycle in which they would deal with a tourist, stare at their screen mindlessly for a good ten minutes before disappearing into a back room (for a cup of coffee?) and eventually returning just in time for the change of shift when the desks would be left entirely unmanned for a good quarter of an hour.
After an excruciating wait in excess of two hours, I finally found myself faced with a hulk of a man with a face like a slapped arse, inexplicably wearing sunglasses despite it being overcast and him being inside. He proceeded to interrogate me on my reasons for entering the country, repeatedly attempting to make me slip up on my story by asking the same questions in various, convoluted ways. At one point he became angry because I only had two weeks left on my Visa — it seems I was somehow misled in assuming that this meant it was valid for another two weeks but I had to sympathize with him — it was after all an immense inconvenience to the poor man; stamping my passport must have been a hugely arduous task and to think I had the audacity to expect him to perform the job he was paid to do. I may have avoided actually being cavity searched, but I can only imagine the feeling would be remarkably similar.
If I received service like this in a supermarket — I would walk out and complain to the manager but unfortunately that wasn’t Waitrose and I can’t write to the president. I don’t for one minute imagine that the complaint I did submit will be so much as acknowledged, so I suppose this will have to do!