After a delayed arrival into Washington Dulles Wednesday evening from Frankfurt, I just wanted to get through passport control and customs and out to the parking lot to meet my friends. It was after 2am Frankfurt time and despite a rather relaxing flight on United, I was in no mood to stand around in long immigration lines.
As I usually do at Dulles, I inched my way in front of everyone else during the long trek to the mobile lounge after deplaning then strategically positioned myself to be one of the first off when we reached the main immigration hall.
I was one of the first from my flight to arrive, but there was a small crowd still queuing from a previous arrival. I got in the U.S. citizens line and rather quickly made it toward the front. There were three lanes open and about five people waiting behind the yellow line at each station. I was directed to one of the lines and stood patiently as the DHS slowly processed the people in front of me.
Finally, I made it to the front of the line. Suddenly, a shrill voice on an intercom system blared, “All agents who have been on the clock since 1100: finish up and clock out now. All agents who have been on the clock since 1100: finish up and clock out now.” Ok…
The agent working my line and the one working the booth to my left looked at each other and flashed visible grins. They both finished up the passenger they were working on, logged out, and left their stations, even though a line of passengers were standing (and had been standing for quite sometime) outside their booths.
That left one agent on duty to contend with a United 777 full of American citizens. We were herded to a single line, now about 20 people deep, and told to wait patiently. Meanwhile, about 200 people were now behind us.
Three foreign lines were open, so after a few minutes one of the three agents transitioned from foreign passports to American citizens and legal residents. I darted over to the line, but there were still ten people in front of me.
Finally, I got up to the front only to have this agent walk away from his desk. Thankfully, this was just to confer with a supervisor and two minutes later he was back at his desk and motioned for me to come over.
I made a comment about being understaffed and the guy got very defensive, stating, “You people don’t want high taxes so you get this.” I suggested that the DHS re-allocate some of its TSA funding to CBP. The guy snapped back, “Those idiots can’t do what we do. We’re very highly trained. We go to an academy. We’re law enforcement.” Whatever.
After his sermon, he stamped me in (stamping me back into my own country still puzzles me) and I was on way…30 minutes later than I should have been.
Once again, I ask myself why haven’t I invested in Global Entry? I really have only myself to blame.