Welcome to the USA…

Customs yesterday was a Drama. To be fair, I brought some of it on myself and some of it was just sheer refusal of people to listen. Atlanta has the new automated systems for passport checking and customs forms. The topic of how poorly designed they are in terms of user experience is for another discussion. Anyway, you have the option to choose the language you want to answer the questions in and since my spoken Dutch is stronger than my written Dutch, I choose Dutch. And I made the mistake of answering one question incorrectly – yes, I had purchased things outside the Netherlands to leave here, but it was not over $800. The only reason I even answered it is because technically it could be considered food and the following question wants you to declare the kind of food you have. Well, this caused a proper tilt with the CBP inspector and after a very one sided (me) and unwelcoming (him) conversation, he finally gave me back my passport and my little receipt.

I march steadily on to wait for my luggage and then proceed to exit. By this time, I could really use a coffee and I am not quite firing on all cylinders. But this is the USA, so you have to exit Customs first before you can have any kind of enjoyment. As opposed to Europe where you can coffee away and take your time before moving through the process. As I get to the last exit lane, I get told that I don’t have the right stamp and guess what, I have to go back and get one. But I need to go through the secondary inspection area for that. So, off I go through some more double doors into another area where they do all of the inspections for smuggling, forbidden foods, etc. And technically, all I need is a stamp that the first agent failed to give me. Right. An hour later and it is my turn. After a proper questioning over why I would choose to live anywhere other than the USA, they go through my luggage, still certain that I have alcohol. Guess what, I don’t. I wasn’t kidding when I told you that all I had was chocolate, Mr. CBP agent. When they can’t find the alcohol that I don’t have, they finally give me a stamp and I can leave.

All my colleagues have long since cleared customs, as a matter of fact, they are already checked into the hotels. So off I trek to the shuttle to the domestic terminal so I can catch MARTA. The shuttle ride seems extremely long, almost as if we are going to another airport entirely. Once there, I buy my transit card and get on the line to downtown. I am all checked in by 630PM and somehow it feels a lot longer than the 2.5 hours it took from the time I got off the plane.

I had dinner at the Hard Rock Café last night. Wow, it was really not tasty. My fault since I chose it, remembering that years past their food had actually been pretty good. But now it is massive quantities and minimal flavor. I had dinner with three of my coworkers and it was fun at any rate, all kinds of juvenile Dutch humor and clowning around. They also gave me a crash course on which food courts have the best options for the lunches for the next week and what to look out for. Useful information since they have been coming for years. And they call the water here that is served in glasses “swimming pool water” and that took me a minute to mentally translate. Of course, it is chlorinated. And it is not in Europe. You can smell it right away. They all found it very strange that I would willingly drink it.

Wow, it is 615AM already. I woke up at 430. There was no hope of staying asleep. I am drinking some very bad coffee that you make in the bathroom coffee makers. However, it is not bad enough to stop me from making a second cup. If you put less water in it, you can sort of convince yourself it could be espresso. Okay, you also really have to use your imagination!

It was a luxury to have the whole bed to myself without four little creatures who manage to take up an enormous amount of room when they sleep. And there’s air conditioning, which I promptly turned down to 65 degrees. Whoop Whoop!

Well, I think I might as well go out and start exploring Atlanta since I am awake and it is probably the coolest weather it is going to be all day.

3 thoughts on “Welcome to the USA…

  1. Welcome back! I’m having a Nespresso and wishing I could share. I’ve had a lot of hotel coffee, I know too well how bad it is!

    1. I am jealous! Today, I almost walked into somewhere that brews flavored coffee. Luckily, I saw the chalkboard before I could get sucked in! I just have to make it to Saturday 🙂 See you next week!

  2. I can imagine very well that the Hard Rock Cafe must have been a huge dissapointment, keeping in mind that Claim Jumper is your favorite restaurant, hehe!
    Make sure you enjoy your stay in the country of steaks and pancakes while you can babe!
    -X-
    Joanne

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