The Other Side of Tourism – Pt 16


The driver loaded my luggage and drove me to Sangster Airport (Montego Bay) where I checked in my suitcase. While waiting to board the plane, I bought 3 bottles of white rum and a book of award winning Jamaican stories. I went upstairs to wait for the plane. I had been feeling agitated since the bag incident earlier. Things were not going right.

The plane left on schedule and we arrived in Miami at 11:00. For 2.5 hours I waited to get through the customs and immigration procedures. Finally, it was my turn. The inspector looked at me suspiciously. He looked at me and then at the photograph several times. (Of course the photograph doesn’t look like me, you jerk, I have glasses on, and my braids have been taken out). I took off my glasses but he didn’t look up. He started trying to defile my passport by pinching at the corners of the front page. Then he started looking over his shoulders as if he wanted someone to call security. I definitely did not need this. I looked at the clock; I was running out of time, and patience.

It had been rumored that illegal immigrants used bogus passports to gain access into America. They would come to Miami and then because a passport was not required from Miami to New York, they would use other means to get there. But surely the inspector could differentiate a forgery from the real thing? Obviously he could not because he was just about to desecrate the protective covering that secured my photograph when he decided to check my visa status.

“G4 visa, eh? Secretariat. So you work for the United Nations?” he asked. [So the G4 visa is what determines whether a passport is valid or a forgery?]

I ignored him. He twitched nervously.

“Do you like working there?” trying to humor me.

I turned my head as though I hadn’t heard him and looked to see how many poor buggers were waiting in line. There were hundreds of them. If this moron was the one inspecting all the passports, they would be here until midnight.

“Tear it up now, na… tear it up if yu bad” My indigenous, yet unconscious dialect resounded in my head. It actually made a difference that I was a United Nations official? This was ludicrous, they didn’t know what to look for, it was sheer guesswork!

I scowled, snatched my passport and strutted like an ostrich towards the carousel.

With 20 minutes left to board the plane, I had to find the carousel my luggage was placed on, retrieve it and check it in. I picked up my suitcase and dragged it to the representative who told me to “Give it to the sky captain over there”.

There were about six ‘sky-captains’. I didn’t know which one to give it to. I gave it to the one that approached me (assuming she had magically indicated to him in some way that he should take my case) and made my way toward the plane with five minutes left.

It seemed as though I was walking for miles. It was a good ten minutes walk to the plane and that was at a hurried pace. When I finally arrived, there was a line. The computer was down.

“People with boarding passes can get on the plane. The plane will be leaving in three minutes.”

There had been no procedure whereby boarding passes had been dispensed. The procedure was totally different. Trying to get the attention of the airline representatives was near impossible. So I just boarded the plane and took out my ticket. Luckily, I had one of those tickets that had the boarding pass attached to it. I did not need a separate boarding pass.

It wasn’t until I boarded the plane that I realized the carton with the rum was missing. Somewhere amidst this confusion the three bottles of rum I had bought were misplaced, my uneasiness mounted. I don’t think it was mislaying the rum that caused my anxiousness; I think it was the culmination of events and non-events that had happened since that morning.

Part 17 will be published next month….