Travel does not have to be all happy and pleasant always. Though there are those weariness of long journey and waiting time; they don't count as an ordeal.
I had to make a short business trip to the United States 2 weeks ago. I knew it was going to be a hectic schedule. I had to visit 2 offices located in different states and meet up with many people. Count the long flying time and jet lag. I was prepared for it and just wanted to finish the trip off. But few incidents that occurred was entirely out of my control and everything that could go wrong; happened in this trip.
To start with; I was pulled aside for secondary screening at the port of entry in Boston. The officer at the counter seemed terse; it was unlike all my previous experience in the US. But I thought it was just a trivial thing. After going over my documents, asking "stupid" questions, picked on my job profile and allegedly telling I came for job purpose...He scanned my finger prints; he mentioned I was to go through one more screening. I said ok and reached out for my passport. He didn't give it to me; just said "Just stand against that wall"
Now - it didn't feel good at all. How much ever they claim its a routine random check; being sided when others just walk is a bad feeling. Another office asked me to go with him and he took my passport along. We went one floor down towards secondary screening room. A door of thick steel that opens with combination of numbers - now I've read about such security systems in lot of Fredrick Forsyth's novel.
Anyway; I was made to sit and there were few others - Africans, Asians, Muslims. In no time; another office called out my name and I went towards him. Seated behind a desk; hidden by a monitor; he started asking me questions after questions. Very rude! There is nothing called as humanity. Twisting and turning; repeating the same questions over and over again, trying to pick on even simple words like "live", "stay"....Threatened me a few times that he will have to put me on a flight back to India and that I am making it difficult for him and myself.
I was then told to bring my bags. I went out and brought my bags and the door was not opened for 5 minutes. When it was finally opened; that guy took me into another room and made me sit on an old wooden chair. He was particular I sit on that chair. Frisked my bags - everything that was in there; right from my panties and brasseries and sanitary pads. Not only such things are humiliating; it makes you wonder what these folks gain out of all these?
Heights of cruelty; not giving a thought that someone has flew long hours and probably its their sleeping time. The questions continued. He alleged that I was giving different answers. At one point I lost it and said "Look, if you want specifics; please ask me specific questions. You keep repeating the same questions over and over again and it doesn't help". To which he said that was his job.
I was made to share phone numbers of folks who I'll be reporting to. Asked more about my company and why I was here after so many years. What would've happened to the project without me traveling there; aren't there folks who can do what I do here? They did end up talking to a couple of my peers and then concluded I am not a "suspect"
By then, I was so tired and bored that I started to read my book. Oh! few questions were so silly - 9 days but you've got 3 books with you! just 9 days and you have a woollen cap with you. Why the umbrella? Why via Boston? No direct flight to Raleigh from Paris? After around an hour; my passport was stamped and I was told I can stay for the meetings. I didn't even acknowledge; I just walked out.
There was an old Europen couple and the man asked "why are we being detained?" To which - an officer said "You have entered the United States". The behaviour was notorious and it was like they are above the law and can frisk and question anybody who've entered their territory. At the moment; I wanted to say "Thanks! But I have made up my mind not to be here anymore. Please put me on any flight back home". That would've made about that officer, isn't it?
I am angry, humiliated and insulted. At the same time; I pitied them - all in the name of freedom? Whose freedom? What freedom are you talking about?
So this was while going to US. The stay was hectic; had to meet so many folks and there was no time. Overall it was fruitful. While coming back; it was another kind of an ordeal.
The flight from Pittsburgh to Paris was Delta that code shared with Air France. After flying for 4 hours into the Atlantic; they decided to deviate to the nearest airport at Gander, Canada due to a medical emergency. A person passed out and he was in pain. Unfortunate incident; for the rest of us it was going to be delayed landing, missed connections and so on.
After getting the sick person off and refuelling; the flight resumed. 7 hrs became 12 hrs and my connection to Bangalore from Paris had just 2 hrs time. Obviously; I missed my connection having landed in Paris 3 hrs into my flight take off. After going through the wait; got allotted a Jet Airways that was flying 9 hrs later. Loitered around the airport for a good hour and settled at a place sitting Chai Latte. The sight at the airport was nice. A bright cherry red piano on which few folks played, a group of Jews praying before boarding to a Tel Aviv flight.
So yeah; stranded and finally boarded the Jet Airways flight to Mumbai and from there on to Bangalore. I checked many times and they assured me of safe arrival of my baggage. However; in Mumbai the baggages didn't arrive with the flight. Complaints raised, by then I was tired and sick of all this. Took the flight to Bangalore.
The baggages arrived 2 days later; I wasn't convinced when they promised but all that ends well, is well.
Hmmm...what else is remaining to go through during a travel?