It has been more than a year since I last visited the US, but flying to Boston for a conference, I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me at Logan Airport. Since half of the passport control positions were closed on a regular Thursday evening, we had to wait almost an hour. And after collecting our suitcases, there was another long and disorganized line for people and their luggage, waiting to hand in the custom form to the (only) two custom officers. In that second line we stood for over an hour.
In addition to the shock of seeing such lines, what surprised me most was that no one said a word. The same American people whom I hear vocalizing their complaints in Europe and in Israel, stood quietly and patiently. I was the only one to complain, everyone else just waited there “tight upper lip” bravely tolerating the endless lines.
In February I was in Britain at the time of the subway strike. As the strike was in protest aginst loss of jobs in the system, the Londoners accepted this civil action and reacted patiently. But in Boston, it was not a strike but, what impressed me as, an arrogant ill treatment of those passengers who had the misfortune to arrive to Logan.
When I finally reached the gate to the promised land, I blurted to the duty custom officer that this was a shabby welcome to the greatest country in the world. He agreed and suggested with a smile that I should write to my congressman, I wonder how many congressmen find themselves standing in such lines
Getting out of the airport, the city of Boston was truly welcoming: with free transportation to all over the city, I got to the hotel in no time. It was as though the town, in its civility, was trying to make up for what had just happened at the airport.
9/11 has changed the approach to security all over the world, some procedures were indeed necessary and the public has always been willing to cooperate. However, in the name of security, for over ten years passengers have been enduring unnecessary and ridiculous abuse.
In the most technologically advanced country, people with cutting edge phones, which could be used instead of a printed ticket, are standing in line for over an hour to hand in an outdated paper form.
Back home, in the Middle East, I exited Ben Gurion Airport twenty minutes after landing. I wonder whether the Israeli tendency to complain and protest wasn’t in part responsible for this feat. In the Jewish oral tradition, we have an expression: “the shy man cannot learn, and the pedantic man cannot teach.” Perhaps if the American people are not too shy (or too afraid) to complain, they would be able to leave the airports in less than an hour. After all, as the Americans taught us, time is money, and the US is the greatest country in the world.