Wednesday 16 April 2014

All American Holiday. Part 2: Homeland Security

Maybe if I understood their jobs better, I would understand what they are trying to prevent and how they might think that I could be involved. I would perhaps be able to offer the words they are looking for to help this process go easier. As it is they just appear to be bloody rude for no reason, and this makes me angry.

“Why are you coming to the USA?”
“I am going to a motor race.” This, apparently, is not an acceptable answer.
“You have any friends or family here that you are meeting with?”
“No.” This too is, apparently, not an acceptable answer.

So having answered questions one and two wrong, I then get this:
“Long way to come just for a motor race. I don’t understand why you would spend all that money on flights for such a short trip.”
I’m not sure why I needed to know that the man from homeland security thinks what I am doing is a waste of time and money, but his opinion is duly noted. He is now looking at me like I am supposed to respond to his opinion. I want to say “So f**king what?” and I daren’t open my mouth because I am pretty sure that is what will come out and I doubt that will smooth my access to the United States. We look at each other for a minute and then perhaps it occurs to him that he hasn’t actually asked me anything. So he asks me if I’m going to meet friends and family again. Having not gained any American friends or family in Roseville within the last 3 minutes, my answer is still no.

Then he asks for my itinerary to, and I quote, “Prove when you are leaving the United States.” Is that what this is about? Does he think I am an illegal immigrant? Sneaking into the USA to take advantage of their strong economy, labour laws and health care system? Exactly how many UK citizens are there living illegally in the United States? I show him my itinerary.

Then he pulls his trump card! He asks to see the tickets to the race. At this point I do really want to say “Darn it, you got me! There is no race!” Just to see what happens. This man has actually removed any desire I had to go into his country, be it for racing or anything else. I tell him I don’t have tickets. “Why not?” He asks with mock shock. “Because they give them to you at the gate.” I say with an equally mock ‘isn’t it obvious?’ voice. It appears I have passed his little test and can now enter his country.

If you are in Charlotte Airport for the first time and trying to leave, you should be aware that the letter on your gate number refers to the big “Checkpoint” signs you see overhead. Why they call them checkpoints when they know you are looking for the word “gate” is a mystery. However when you have sussed that Gate B7 means go to checkpoint B then to gate 7, it’s fine. Re-check your luggage and go and get some food from the Stock Car CafĂ©.

America is big. This may seem like an obvious statement but somehow, it isn’t. Everybody knows America is big but it is hard to understand how mind bogglingly huge it is until you need to get from one bit to another. The trip from Charlotte to California is almost as long as the trip to get to the US in the first place. And although I knew, both in time and in distance, how far it was, I was not prepared for the reality of doing it. Thursday is winding down in the UK when you get to the US. Here it is still lunch time and, not only am I going to fly for a further 5 hours, they are going to add two more hours on to my Thursday while I do it. This is the longest Thursday ever.
Also you do this flight without the creature comforts of the transatlantic crossing. There is no movies, tv or games. Or even pasta and coffee. There is wifi however. But the battery on my laptop was flat. And I was  bloody tired. So I did my best to sleep in between the crying baby and the woman in the seat next to me with the uncontrollable bladder.  

I eventually arrive in Sacramento in the small hours of Friday morning. I have elected not to rent a
car because (a) I don’t know my way around and don’t really have time to learn, and (b) I actually don’t like driving. So I have chosen Super Shuttle to take me to my hotel. It is $36 plus I added a $4 tip to round it up. The Super Shuttle is a minibus that takes several people at a time and drops them off at their pre-chosen destinations. I get the full 45 minute tour as I am the last passenger to depart the Super Shuttle. I arrive at my Holiday Express at about 0130, check-in and pretty much go to sleep despite my body’s mixed messages that I am really tired and it is not really 0130.

Click here for part 3

***All the crap you see written here is Kelvin's opinion and not that of his associates, race team or marketing partners.***

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