The pics above are from the first part of the flight where I was crammed into a tiny little space next to smelly man.
The next part of the journey wasn’t quite as bad. Again I was in coach seated next to a guy almost my size. They pack us in like sardines with no thought going into the passengers’ comfort. I watched a show about air travel a few days ago and they broke down the expenses and profits of the cost of flying passengers today; after all the expenses are paid and fares collected, they only clear a couple hundred bucks if they fill every seat. Put more seats in, pack us in tighter, make more money… to hell with how much it sucks for us to be sitting so close to a perfect stranger that you are touching for 6 hours without a break.
Anyway, other than the discomfort of actually being pressed up against some guy from Birmingham that I’ve never met, the flight itself was pretty uneventful. In comparison to the first part of the journey from Sofia to Paris sitting next to Fidgety StinkMan, it was like an afternoon at a spa. I learned one valuable lesson about the process however, and that it to get online even earlier than I did and select a seat. I know now that I have to be on the right side of other folks, in the aisle if possible, for a right-handed person to be comfortable at all on a long flight. If you don’t fit into the space they’ve put you in and you’re a righty, it’s really a pain in the ass to eat or do anything without sticking your elbow in your neighbor’s face, even though they don’t seem to give a shit where their limbs are in relation to your personal space.
Finally, the longest part of the flight was over and we landed in Detroit. We deplaned and were funneled right into the Customs area where we stood in another line for 45 minutes. I needed a restroom break almost from the time the fasten seat belt sign went on and until we were cleared through Customs, there weren’t any restrooms. Immediately after clearing Customs I was stopped again by another Customs agent wanting to see my Passport and Declaration form. I made the mistake of saying “Jesus Christ, how many fucking times do you need to see my Passport here? I just need to get to a restroom!” This didn’t go over so well with her. A little authority over a passenger trying to piss and go home is all they have; threaten that and you have someone with a new mission. She looked at my eyes real close to see what kind of drugs I was on, said “Oh wow!” and let me go. I knew it wasn’t going to end there.
I realized as I was washing my hands and coming out of the restroom that I could’ve handled that better. I thought I should find the agent and apologize but I didn’t see her anywhere now. My luggage finally came around on the belt and I was on my way. I thought. Then another customs agent pulled me out of the crowd and asked me to follow him into the security area. I finally figured out where that other woman had gone: she was off to initiate to get the rest of the team on board with making my stay a little longer, to show me how much authority she really has. There were 3 or 4 agents running the inspection lines and I stopped in front of the first one. The woman on a mission was on the end and of course, and motioned me down to her line. All my bags were torn apart and thoroughly searched. I was asked the same series of questions that I had repeated just minutes before as I passed through the first Customs booth. The two agents directed to search my stuff did so reluctantly and were very polite in the process. They didn’t look in things that I would have certainly searched if I were a Customs Agent which indicated to me that this was all payback, they were part of it, and they knew it. There was only one more person in this area being searched at the time and he looked like a terrorist. They weren’t passively browsing through his stuff, they were probing and detaining. He had a worried look on his face the entire time. Maybe he had a little C4 in the toothpaste tube that they were getting close to.
The two agents chatted with me the whole time. We joked, we laughed, it wasn’t painful at all. The woman running the show stood at the front and scowled through it all. The other agents apologized for not being able to pack my stuff as neatly as I had and sent me on my way. I really didn’t want to give the woman in charge any satisfaction for the added inconvenience, but I apologized anyway. After all, it was me who was the asshole to begin with while she was just doing her job.
My adventure to Bulgaria is over. I got in my crappy american car, pulled out onto our crappy american freeway and set the cruise at 100. As I flew past every other car on the road like they were parked, I couldn’t help thinking how nice it was to be home. I love to travel and see other countries, some I didn’t want to leave. But I’m always glad to get back to the USA and when I do, I realize how good we have it here. Even with the economy the way it is and all the other problems we have here, it’s still home and it’s a great place to be.
Now if I could just find a way to educate American drivers to get the hell out of the left lane unless they actually passing other cars…