The Glass Wall or why is getting home so hard?

Donald Trump is wrong when he says it’s easy for bad people to enter the US.  The screening process for getting into the US is so hard that even US citizens can’t enter…at least not easily.

Even though we very much enjoyed Ireland we were beginning to want to be home after Aberdeen Scotland.

When Ariana fell flat on her face outside an Aberdeen pub our trip went a little downhill until she could walk without pain. I did a few side trips where climbing or long walks were involved…but these were considerably less fun without her.

She was beginning to recover some in Dublin and could walk a mile if I carried all the stuff and held the umbrella.  Her condition forced us to relax, slow down etc.  We met Batman, took a sight seeing bus, walked slowly through the Dublin zoo and castle.  Suddenly it was time to fly back to the US through Toronto.  “Almost home” we though “all our surprises are over”….as Chairman Mao once said in his little red book, “That is incorrect thinking.”

In Europe we had traveled from country to country only having to show our passport to the airlines.  In Germany, for example we went into Austria and back then to France with no sign of a border.  Even traveling from the UK into the Republic of Ireland was no sweat.  Boarded a train in Belfast, got off in Dublin.  The biggest change was going from pounds sterling back to the euro again.  No big border surprises and no border delays – the whole trip.

That ease of movement changed abruptly in Toronto Pearson Airport as we were going through the customs process back to the US.   Some travelers have described this airport as “the single worst experience we have ever had at an airport.”  We don’t blame the Canadians.

We got off our Air Canada flight and went to the bathroom.  We emerged into an almost deserted hallway.  Our fellow passengers had rushed ahead – we later found out why.   In the meantime we realized were were in a very long hallway.   The wide, carpeted terminal receded in the distance with no signs as to where to go. There were no more bathrooms, no more shops, no more little kiosks with water. Our hallway was on one side of a long glass wall.  On the other side of this glass wall we could see brightly lit shops, food places, and kiosks with …..water.  We were very thirsty and thought “surely we can get through this wall to those clear bottles just on the other side and below us.”  We tried elevators but they only went to the lower part of the glass wall.  Not even being sure we were going the right direction down the long hallway we asked a guy on an electric cart whisking by  “which way to water”.   He pointed down the endless hallway.

After a long thirsty walk with a few more futile attempts to get through the glass wall we reached the end and discovered the long lines at customs.

My mind has blocked out some of the details of the horrors that awaited us that day so my sequence of events may be off.  Your brain works less well when it is dehydrated.  The one saving grace was that our bigger bags had already been checked through to New Jersey in the US.  We were facing a four hour layover here in Toronto and we needed the time to get through the endless lines.

First we waited in a long line to have, our vests, our shoes, and ourselves scanned.  The usual stuff but long.

Second we waited in line to have our passport scanned at a kiosk.  This logged us into a computer program that asked if you were traveling with someone and what you were carrying back.  Since we were traveling with each other and since both of us were logged on to our own kiosks one of us had to start over as neither could continue the computer program until we had the other person’s passport scanned.  Of course there were no signs that mentioned this issue before you started the program.

At the kiosk the computer asked the same questions we had already filled out on those reentry cards one gets for customs.  The fact we had food with us apparently caused a black line to be printed across our printout from the kiosk. (Note to selves- never carry extra food with you into the US). We then went to the next station and waited only to discover we were to go to the third station and wait some more.

At the third station we could see customs/ immigration agents waiting to process the line that snaked in and around ropes. There were actually two lines but it was impossible to tell which line we were to be in because there were no signs indicating where to go. A distraught woman in uniform was trying to keep people in the proper lines and corralling people who went into the wrong line.   This, of course, created a third line of people who questioned the lone distraught woman about which line they were to be in.

We waited in the longest line – the length of the line being our signal that this had to be the line simply because it was the longest (this turned out to be the right line). However, it seemed strange that those with black lines on their print out were waiting in the same line with those with no black lines on their printout. We tried a few light hearted jokes in line but no one was smiling.  This was our most serious moment in our whole vacation!

Meanwhile another group had formed.  People who were about to miss their connecting flight.  As a measure of their desparation this set of people were unhooking the ropes between the posts that separated the lines and getting into the shorter line.  The distraught woman had to keep reconnecting the ropes while she was redirecting people, while she was trying to respond to those about to miss their connection.

Eventually the distraught agent was rescued by two more women in uniform who allowed some people to move forward in line so as to not miss their flight which was to depart in 10 minutes.  They gently redirected those who were disconnecting ropes with polite but official words.  They continued to announce new departures and continued to let new groups of people to go to the front.

All directions were in English.  Fortunately there were enough people waiting who spoke English and their native language and they translated to others. Yeah for cooperation!

There was a US side to this line and a Canadian side.  The Canadian side was running smoothly.  All the Canadians seemed to be relaxed and happy.  All the people on the US side seemed to be anxious except for the customs agents in their glass booths who seemed to be bored.

When we approached our own bored looking agent we expected she would want to see our food.  She matched our passports to our faces and processed us through with a grunt and no glances at our food. We were passed over to the other side of the terminal where our plane would take us to Newark, New Jersey.

We were now on the other side of the glass wall.  The journey had taken us three hours.  We each bought a big bottle of water.

Sorry no photos were allowed but I so wanted to send some to Donald Trump.






Author: talks2trees

I'm a recent writer and retired teacher. Married for more than half my life to Ariana I am content now to travel with her to warm places while snow swirls around our home in upstate NY where we live two houses away from my son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Our daughter lives just a block away so our decision to travel is not without a consequence. However we have taken very few vacations in our married life so this journey, that starts in Costa Rica, is very new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *