As a word of warning to any other non-US passport holders: be prepared for delays and possible problems at Immigration if you’ve changed your passport recently. TLS and I landed at Miami at 4pm local time last Thursday, very much looking forward to our week’s holiday here over the 4th July weekend. We’d had an uneventful flight, which had landed on time and we were early in the immigration queue. I was processed with no problems and went on ahead to retrieve our bags, but TLS was asked to accompany a Homeland Security employee to an office for what was described as a “brief chat” in order to “discuss” an apparent discrepancy on his passport.
He managed to tell me all of this via text before he (and he alone, out of the hundred-odd other people in the holding pen) had his phone confiscated … and we then spent FOUR HOURS sitting in separate parts of Miami airport each wondering what was happening. I was going out of my mind with worry, particularly after an airline official took the time and trouble to tell me that he might be deported (!) – a great start to our much anticipated holiday.
It eventually transpired that there are still apparently teething problems with the new ESTA system – the recently introduced on-line visa waiver process which replaces the old green form which one used to have to fill in on the plane. We each applied for ESTAs (and were granted them) last September when we went over to California. Since then, TLS has replaced his passport, so he naturally applied for a new ESTA – and, again, was granted one on-line. Unfortunately, the ESTA software isn’t sophisticated enough (or perhaps doesn’t “talk” to other systems) and doesn’t know when a passport has expired – all it sees is that there are TWO ESTAs live in the system, each attached to different passports.
Arrest the innocent traveller and treat him like a criminal! Retain him in a hot, airless room with no facilities for four hours, accuse him of applying for a new ESTA with an old passport … then accept that actually, the correct passport was used – and then release him without a single word of apology.
So that was how our holiday started.
We were so exhausted by the time we got to our eventual destination in Fort Lauderdale that I didn’t even notice (or care) that we’d been allocated a room over the valet parking desk …. not the tranquil location for which we’d been hoping.
But we have subsequently learned that the one time when everyone will want to use valet parking is when there’s heavy rain – and what have we had for the majority of our time here? That’s right: the heaviest rain seen in this area for about 60 years! Whilst London basks in blue skies and balmy temperatures, southern Florida has 90 degrees F heat, 99% humidity and, yesterday at least, the most rain falling in one day since 1952.
But it’s not all bad news … we are two blocks from a branch of Borders (where the in-house coffee shop prepares delicious cinnamon lattes) and I’ve been doing a lot of reading, due to being trapped indoors by the rain. Here’s some of the books I’ve bought:
“A brilliantly argued case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide …”
Every Last One – Anna Quindlen : a new novel from one of my favourite novelists, a brilliantly nuanced portrayal of family life and shocking, terrifying change.
1959 – The Year Everything Changed – Fred Kaplan : Not the 1960s, apparently, but the year earlier which “ushered in the wave of tremendous cultural, political, and scientific shifts that would play out in the decades that followed …”
Purchased because it was placed (nice work, Borders) on the table adjacent to:
Mad Men and Philosophy – edited by Ron Carveth and James B South: a series of essays which look at the philosophical themes and issues which underpin my favourite TV show.
A Short History of Women – Kate Walbert: Tracing five generations of one family from 1899 through the present, this shows the myriad ways in which women have challenged the status quo, succumbed to it, or made their statements, for better or worse – their stories here existing almost as a series of interrelated short stories.
Hope in a Jar – Beth Harbison: this was perfect fluffy reading for a very wet, stuck indoors afternoon; not great, but it did give me the earworm of the holiday. It’s the story of two high school friends, Allie and Olivia who have gone their separate ways as adults but who (** cliché alert **) reconnect at their high school reunion. Each chapter starts with a tag line from a past or current ad campaign for a beauty product (“Because you’re worth it!”) and one such chapter got me first singing “It’s gonna be an Avivance night …” and then rushing to YouTube to view the original 70s advert.
Check it out, feel amazed at the world it portrays (housewife whipping off headscarf and apron, adding scent and lipstick, welcoming home her husband …) and then try and stop it going roundandroundandround in. Your. Head.
I wonder if this is the type of campaign on which Peggy Olson worked in the 1970s?