Back in Los Angeles. Actually, back much sooner than I thought. On my last trip back from IFA, the line to go through Customs was very long -- in part, because a couple of the automated declaration machines were out, but mainly, I think, because the time I arrived was swamped. Between that, the Homeland Security check-in, and the final Customs desk, it took me about an hour-and-40 minutes. That's one of the reasons I didn't ask anyone to pick me up at the airport this time, not know how long it would take. Well -- this year, from getting in line to hitting the sidewalk was...24 minutes. An absolute, and stunning breeze. I wouldn't count on that all the time, but maybe things are running a bit smoother now. Or I got lucky.
There was a surprisingly amusing moment at the Homeland Security desk, where you take your "receipt" from the automated declaration machines. Usually, things are pretty dour, without a crack of a smile. What happened here is that a lady did a sort of "end-around" and got to the front of the line, calling out that she just had a question. One of the three security guards nearest by dismissed her with a brusque, "You have to go to the end of the end," and her repeated efforts to just ask her question got the same response.
As she grimaced and started to walk off, the farthest of the three Homeland Security people called to his fellow-worker, with a chiding smile, "Oh, man, you're not even going to answer her question??!" That was all the lady needed to hear, and she turned around again to say she just had a question. By this point, the original guard was wavering, and then the remaining guard started giving him a hard time -- and the farthest-away guard (who had started the chiding) called the lady over, saying he'd answer her question. And now all three guards were on board to help her.
She said that one of the officers in the room had told her that she had to do something or other, and she didn't know if that was right. To which the "farthest" guard replied, "Well, he was wrong." He stepped out from his desk and asked her to point out the incorrect guard, which she did, and all three at the desk were now helping her, and the first one even called her over so that he could stamp her form. And all was well.
I was near the front of the line, and when I got up to the desk, I said "This is the friendliest, most fun Customs desk I've ever been to." They all loved that and started laughing. "Tell our boss that," one of the said. I replied that there were probably enough cameras around that their boss probably heard it. They laughed and pointed me to what I presume was, in fact, a camera, and told me to give it a "Thumbs up" -- which I did.
And now, sooner than I expected, I'm back home. The elves did a respectable job taking care of the place. And since I'm a bit exhausted, I toddle off...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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