US Border Security
Nov 12, 2007

Never fear, my fellow Americans, our borders are secure! So secure, in fact, that a law abiding US citizen traveling home from a friendly nation with which we have very good relations can barely get into the country. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but that's what it felt like. I had a great business-related post all planned out for when I got back, but now I feel inclined to post about this instead. As you should know if you've been paying attention, I've just come back from Jamaica where I was for my uncle's wedding. I've been to Jamaica tons of times; I started going from before my memory starts, and there are pictures of me there in diapers. I've had plenty of annoying trips going through customs and immigration (usually in Miami), but this time definitely takes the cake. There aren't, apparently, any direct flights from Boston to Montego Bay, so instead I flew JetBlue to Ft. Lauderdale where I caught an Air Jamaica flight to Montego Bay. Coming back I simply reversed the trip. As an interesting aside, when I was buying my tickets I discovered this: Apparently the USSR is still alive and well, but you can only get there through Jamaica. Anyway, back to the point. My schedule gave me an hour and a half between my two flights in Ft. Lauderdale. I have never had immigration take that long (except maybe going into Manchester this past spring...), even going into China has always been a breeze when I've done it, so I figured I'd be fine. The first problem was that they were simply unorganized. The passport control area was designed have probably about 10 lines all feeding different desks. Instead, they had set it up as one single long line that snaked through the room (because it was way too small to accommodate even a single flight's worth of travelers despite having obviously been renovated pretty recently). They didn't even separate out the US passport holders from the rest, which would have completely solved my problem. 45 minutes later I was less than halfway through the line because, despite it being incredibly obvious to anyone that their setup wasn't sufficient to accommodate even a modest number of people, only about half of the desks were actually staffed. About an hour later I finally made it through, picked up my bag, went through customs (very quickly, thankfully), then got on the shuttle to take me to the other terminal where I'd catch my next flight. At that point there was only about 30 minutes before my flight boarded which essentially meant that I couldn't make it. First off, they won't let you check in less than 30 minutes before the flight (and I hadn't checked in online before, which turned out to be a good thing), and second it's very rare to spend less than a half hour going through security. Fortunately, I had a solution. Since my flight hadn't actually left yet and probably wasn't even boarding yet I hadn't technically missed it yet. That meant that, while I was on the (surprisingly long) shuttle ride between terminals I was able to go online with my iPhone and change my itinerary to a later flight. JetBlue is very good about changing itineraries, and they only charge you the difference in the ticket price (if any) plus about $25 service charge. So when I got off the shuttle, all I had to do was check into my next flight and go through security. Security, as I expected, probably took about 45 minutes to an hour because, again, they didn't have enough people working causing a huge bottle neck so there was no way I could possibly have made my flight. So I bought some books, and waited 4 hours for my flight. I ended up leaving just a little after I was supposed to arrive in Boston originally, and landed in Boston at around 10:30 at night. Fortunately, Jessi was there to pick me up so I didn't have to deal with the vagaries of the T nor the exorbitance of a taxi. Despite all that though, I had a great time in Jamaica. I got to spend time with my family that I rarely see, and meet some interesting new people. I also was able to get a few good pictures that I'll be posting online once I figure out how to get them onto my computer (I used to just use the built-in card reader in my monitor which I no longer have, and I'm not sure where the cord for my camera got to). So, that's my border crossing rant. Stay tuned for that business-related post I promised earlier.
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