I am sure you all could see this coming too. Wide awake and on my second cup of coffee at 0428 AM Pacific Time. I woke up at 336AM ready to face the day. And for a moment, I thought it was already daylight but it was only the moon since it is a full moon here. It is definitely still dark outside. It’s nearly 2PM Amsterdam time so I’ll just roll with it.
The flight yesterday was long, made longer by the failure of an onboard computer to restart. So we were late leaving Schiphol. We arrived early into Seattle but it didn’t make a difference because of the new and improved Customs and Border Patrol experience. Here’s where one of the most startling differences came into play. We came off the flight yesterday and because the Seattle International Terminal is small and cramped, all US citizens were told to stand against the wall and they would let us into the passport control area in measured groups. And in the meantime, they kept calling for foreign visitors to move forward. We’re all standing in a dingy, Spartan hallway for a ridiculous amount of time. Then when you are let through down to passport control, you see that they have wiped out half of the stations that were staffed and now replaced them with kiosks like automated checkin machines. So, of course, you wind through the rows like Disneyland to have to use one of these machines. Which would have been better off if they had taken cues from automated check outs which people are used to. But that’s my software development side talking. After you process yourself through the machine, you get a receipt and then have to go and wait for your luggage and then through another endless row session to eventually get out. All in all, it took 90 minutes to clear customs and I was at the front of the plane. This is ridiculously inefficient. They seem to have cut the number of people who you actually interact with and increased the rows and lines to funnel everyone into a system that has half the capacity it had before. But that’s not the biggest difference. Here you have to go through everything during their prescribed timeline and it is a cheerless and frustrating experience. At Schiphol, everyone also has to go through passport control and customs to leave their airport. But it is not on a prescribed timeline. You can get off the plane and have a coffee, go to the restroom, take out money from the ATM, journal, whatever and then go through PC and customs at your convenience. This such a nicer experience and also highlights the difference between the Dutch attitude – “you are a grownup and we trust you will act accordingly – these are our rules and processes, you will go through them but you choose when” vs the American mindset “we can’t trust you to behave properly so we are going herd you through like cattle and we must maintain very tight control over this because you can’t function for yourself”. Seriously, would it be so difficult to consider user experience when designing systems? I wouldn’t have minded waiting 3 hours, if I could have had a cup of coffee and made my own choice when to go on through. Instead, you are treated like a 3 year old.
I was able to restart my old Seattle phone number, which was a big relief. The handset blew up when I was leaving for Europe since the instructions from the phone company were completely wrong and during the past couple of months, the number has been forwarding to Lawyerella. Handy but I had voicemail messages that I had saved, including one from my mom for my birthday in 2009. I have been having anxiety over the past week that they might have been erased by the system since it had been 3 months or so since I had been able to access them. They were not. Yesterday I heard my mom’s voice again and promptly resaved the message. Now I am really techno cool… I am walking around with my Dutch mobile which is a smart phone and my American one which is not a smart phone – it cracks me up because wouldn’t it be great if you could have one phone that could carry multiple numbers simultaneously? And the American phone is very basic, it would be cool if I was 7 – it is too old school to even appeal to 9 year olds! Texting on it is a nightmare. But all the same, I am glad to have it working.
At 7AM, when PCC opens, I am going to head over there and do my shopping. I need to bring back tortillas for the dogs and a few other things that you can’t get in the Netherlands, like nutritional yeast. And I am hoping they have the tofu scramble in the hot bar. I am so craving a tofu scramble. And it is never as good when I make it at home because you need extra extra firm tofu which so far I have not been able to find in Amsterdam.
I went by the big house yesterday after dropping off cheese and chocolates to Jan and Kerrie. They are hard at work finishing their Dog City Daycare empire for next week. Which is totally awesome when I think of how many people I know are starting their own businesses or have this past year. Do what you love, right? The house is still beautiful, even completely empty. I don’t regret buying it so Mom and I could be there. It still feels good and would be a great place for a family. I don’t know what I would do with all that space again. Without Mom, I only used four rooms and closed everything else off. I was kind of like a marble rolling around a football field.
Wishing you a good Sunday, what ever time zone you are in!