Dear United States of America, Please fix your ridiculous travel situation

July 19, 2013

Let me tell you about my first Automattic travel…

Caution: LONG Rant ahead

I have been with Automattic for 3 weeks now and this week was my first Jetpack team meetup. It was in Mexico City and was pretty great. Booked all the flights through Egencia smoothly. Made it down to Mexico fine, then I pressed the button for inspection and it turned red :( . Luckily the inspection was by a girl who looked to be no more than 19 years old and she was busy talking to her friend. She pretty much opened my suitcase, moved one shirt, then let me go.

The trip back home was (still is happening actually…) much different, and much much worse….

After staying up until 1:30 am with the team I had to be ready for the car to pick me up at 5 am for the airport. It was late…

My airline was not marked in the Mexico City airport and none of the employees I could find spoke English. My Spanish is just good enough for me to ask where the bathroom is. Luckily there was another American wandering around looking confused who could speak Spanish. Turns out we were on the same flight. He found the check in for us. That line moved like a slug. Finally got to check-in with 30 minutes till my flight. The lady at the counter berated me for using Aeromexico instead of Alaska because of my checked luggage ( Alaska runs Aeromexico… ). Somehow I got through security in 3 minutes. The plane left 20 minutes late.

Before the plane left late I had an hour to get off in LAX, get my bag, go through customs, go back through security, and find the terminal on the other side of the airport. So I get off the airplane and head down to international baggage claim. There was a lady working for Alasksa at the baggage carousel. A couple flights had come in at the same time. She was pulling bags off and organizing them by flight and destination if connecting. She was very rude though. I watched her pull a bag off the carousel that a kid of probably 15 was waiting to grab. She walked away to put it in a pile. He said, “Ma’am that is my bag.” To which she replied, “Then go get it!” And threw the bag the opposite direction at least 10 feet from him! He was standing right next to her! She stopped putting bags in the connecting flights pile and I was standing there for about 10 minutes waiting for mine. I finally walked up and asked her if that pile was all the bags for connecting flights. She asked where I came from and pointed at the pile. So I asked again, “Is that *all* of the connecting flight bags or are there more coming out?” To which she replied in a yell ( seemed to be her only level ), “How the hell should I know?” Getting a bit upset at this point I said, “Because you work here. I am just asking if you know because no other connecting bags have been coming out.” She yelled, “Just go find your bag!” So I stepped back and waited. My bag came out a few minutes later.

While walking down the hall to customs a security guard stopped me. The only American in the entire group and he stops me? Marks my paperwork and hands it back. I get down to customs and hand them my paperwork. Guess what that mark was….yup, I was “randomly selected” again for inspection. Remember that tight schedule I told you about before? Yeah… I had 1 hour 10 minutes to get off the first plane and onto my connection. 40 minutes of that was already gone. Stood in the customs inspection line for 20 minutes. 10 minutes left before my flight boards. 5 more minutes pass. One of the customs guys waves me over. Big muscley arms, shaved head, tatoos, tight tshirt, goatee. Clearly a persona meant to intimidate. Asks where I came from, where I am going, etc. Asks me about Automattic. Says there is no way I could be hired by a company and then two weeks later get sent to Mexico City. Calls me a liar. Says I am lying about being in Mexico City. I asked him about my flight in 5 minutes and he says, “You will miss it.” Gee thanks… Proceeds to upturn my suitcase all over the table. He does not blink an eye about the bottles of liqour, but quizzes me several different ways about presents I may have brought back. Dude! My bag has clothes and scotch in it. Where would the presents be? He asks for my business card, I do not have one. Says again I am lying about working at Automattic. Took my bag over and x-rayed it. I was literally the only American that was in the inspection area and none of the other people had their bags x-rayed. Called me a liar again. He finally says, “Put everything back in your bag” and sits down at his computer. As I put everything back I realize my iPad is gone :S. Was stolen in Mexico City after I checked the bag. He says tough luck and calls me a liar about having an iPad. Ugh. I notice he is doing Google searches. After a couple minutes I asked if he was trying to find Automattic’s website. He was. I told him how to spell it. He did not believe me. I swear when he found the site he looked at every single page, then did more Google searching on the company. Finally he hands back my passport and tells me to leave. By this time the entire large queue of travelers for inspection is gone. My plane was leaving in 1 minute ( boarded probably 40 minutes before takeoff ).

I walked out of customs and a lady asks if I am continuing and need to put my bag back into the checked luggage. I handed it to her and asked about my missing iPad. She sent me out to the domestic baggage claim area to file a missing luggage dealio. The lady working that counter was very kind to me. The one shining beacon so far. I apologized if I was snapping at her and explained my situation. I guess normally you file missing luggage reports at the final destination, but she did it for me. I also told her about the rude lady in baggage claim and she put me in touch with HR to file a complaint and helped me figure out hwhere I needed to go to get back on track for my flight to Seattle, my shower, and my own bed.

As I am talking to the lady upstairs about my missed flight she mentions that all flights are full today… :’(. I am not a person that swears, but I was almost pushed over the edge by then. My flight has now been gone for 25 minutes. This lady spent 20 minutes working on a flight for me to get home today and found one in 6 hours.

What is this? Oh, security again… Joy… Started chatting with the guy in front of me. He is on his way from Seattle to Mexico. I told him not to check any iPads and he said he had 5 of them in his bag. Crap. This trip through security went smoothly. I was shaken enough by then that I was expecting a siren to come on and to be tackled by a fleet of burly security guards, but I made it through without a hitch.

Now I am sitting in a sports bar that I found out only served microwaved food after I ordered and hoping the next 6 hours passes quickly. Worst travelling I have ever experienced. There was absolutely no reason for any of those people to be rude, especially to a fellow countryman just trying to get home…

Oh, and did I mention this is the first international flight I have ever been on? Always before it has been arrival by car or boat. Way to make a good impression on me U.S.A…

Edit: The following morning I realized my one week old camera was also missing…

11 thoughts on “Dear United States of America, Please fix your ridiculous travel situation

  1. Jeremy (July 19, 2013)

    Oh my. I hope the rest of your trip will be better.Good luck!

  2. Nick Hamze (July 19, 2013)

    Ouch, I sympathize. I’ve gone on three trips overseas for Automattic and they all gone pretty terribly. For some reason I’m always randomly selected by customs. I’ve started saying I’m self employed as the whole Automattic thing is kinda hard to explain and kinda hard for people to believe.

    1. blobaugh (July 19, 2013)

      Oh that is a good idea! Do you have a script I can borrow?

  3. Jon Jennings (@JonJennings) (July 19, 2013)

    Urgh – what a shitty trip. And commiserations on the iPad 🙁

    You’re not alone… I had a similar experience going through transit in Chicago on a trip from Heathrow to Vancouver last year (minus the inquisition). 2.5 hours standing in a line-up to pass immigration into a country I wasn’t even travelling to, plus rude baggage handlers and the general feeling that I was an inconvenience for the employees there. Not helped by the fact that United had already cancelled my original flight out of Heathrow, put me up overnight there the previous night and changed my schedule about 4 times.

    I missed the last flight to Vancouver and, because it was the TSA’s fault and not the airlines, had to pay for my own hotel room. The entire tale of my woeful journey takes about 2 hours to tell LOL.

    I hope at least the team meetup was good!

    1. blobaugh (July 19, 2013)

      It was a great meetup! Did you make a post of your woes?

    2. blobaugh (July 19, 2013)

      Jon setup your Gravatar

  4. Jon Jennings (@JonJennings) (July 19, 2013)

    No – never posted it… it was really too traumatic to go over more than the 2-3 times I told it all orally. Not helped by the fact that on both the occasions that I checked into hotels that I didn’t want to be in, I’d open my laptop and get really bad and unexpected news.

    It was a 3 day nightmare.

    [Gravatar seems to have become a bit of a mess for me recently. If you’re noticing that #wcyvr doesn’t have an image for me, I think that’s partly because they used an email address that Gravatar didn’t know about… that’s fixed now]

    One positive… you’re in a bar 🙂 Hope the time passes swiftly for you.

    1. blobaugh (July 19, 2013)

      I was able to sneak onto a plane after 4 hours! If you do not get your gravatar fixed by #wcyvr I will hook you up

  5. Ryan Cowles (July 19, 2013)

    I had an hour to get off in LAX, get my bag, go through customs, go back through security, and find the terminal on the other side of the airport.

    That’s just brutal… Finding the correct security line can take more than an hour on its own, ha.

  6. Megan (July 19, 2013)

    Tough luck. International travel is always annoying. I didn’t have any bad customs experiences. All the immigrations people were nice to me (my Dad would call it pretty girl perks 😉 ) You should always carry your tech with you though, that really sucks.

  7. RaeAnn Lobaugh (July 21, 2013)

    Mexico has one of those buttons too! Out of my four trips to El Salvador I got red twice, green once, and the other time they just sent our group through because we were to big. For our flights home we always want a two plus hour layover because of customs and all the security and baggage stuff. Also, you made it through the last security line that I got stopped at on the last trip. I guess my playing cards were arranged in a threatening manner. LOL
    Sorry you had to go through all of that. At least you had one nice person and apologized for snapping.