Welcome to the USA!


I spent yesterday traveling to Baltimore, USA. Quite a lot of stress and uncertainty is involved these days due to the USA overreacting to terrorist threats. Most of the measures are not really effective but they certainly are time consuming.

The first part of my journey was a regular european flight from Helsinki to Frankfurt. Everthing was pretty much normal. Me, my hand luggage and suitcase were checked for dangerous/illegal objects and substances (e.g. a bottle of water :-) ), I proceeded to the gate, got on the plane and flew to Frankfurt.

In Frankfurt I had to move from one terminal to another to get to gate B22. For this purpose there is a nicely designed tunnel that is several hundred meters long. Once in the B terminal there were a lot of people and they were all queueing for something this was around gate B4. So I walked along the queue towards my gate when I started te realize that these people were queueing for a security checkpoint. A security checkpoint that I had to pass. With the plane already boarding I started to get a little nervous. By my estimation there were about 1500 people waiting to get to their gate. And they were all in a hurry.

Like the rest of the people I tried my luck with the indifferent security people. In short, they don’t care if you miss your plane. They said it politely but the message was basically to try your luck at the other end of the queue (several hundred meters away) and go F*** yourself. So I squeezed in about 30 meters back and ignored the angry looks from the people behind me (you have to be pragmatic). Slowly the queue moved forward, about a meter per minute.

At last the security people started to do something smart: removing the people from the queue who had time to spare and moving the people forward that like me were supposed to be on the plane already (and still had a good chance of getting on it). The desperate faces of people who were pulled out and told to come back later was heartbreaking. Some had been queuing for 2 hours or more. About 30 minutes later I was searched (no rubber gloves type treatment, don’t worry). The search was pretty quick since there was a lot of pressure on the security guards to hurry up. They glanced in my bag in a way that convinced me that I could have easily hidden stuff in there provided it would not look too suspicious on the scanner.

Anyway, I made it to the plane just in time, that is about 30 minutes after it was supposed to leave and about an hour before it actually left.  The trip was uneventful except for the fact that Lufthansa sees no problems in handing out metallic cuttlery. Yep, that’s right after having been stripsearched for nailcutters, pocketknives and other mettalic objects they gave me a knife and fork that would definately have set off all alarms if I would have had them in my pocket at the security checkpoint. The knife was definately usable as a weapon (though not of mass destruction). Weird.

Arrival in the US (Washington Dulles airport) was a lot smoother. They have these weird shuttles that move between the terminals there. Apparently having dozens of custom made shuttle vehicles that can elevate the cabin to the right height (3 or 4 meters) to move in and out of the terminal is cheaper that just digging a 400 meter tunnel or letting people use an escalator + normal buses. Weird, who’se paying for that?

Security checks were aimed at preventing illegal entry of the country this time. I only had to wait for about 45 minutes this time (last time in the US it was 2 hours). After that I collected my luggage and left the terminal. Welcome to the USA!

My hotel is quite nice. I’m on the 21st floor and have an excellent view over Baltimore including skyline, harbor and city behind the skyline. I’ll post some panorama pics when I’m back in Finland.