Saturday, May 06, 2006


I'm now in Virginia (and thus, in theory, home).

I'm not too sure what'll happen to this blog. After-all, the trip is over now, right?

I fly off to Indiana for a spot of apartment hunting tomorrow, and a week later, will be off to San Francisco to begin my Google internship.

What happens next here - I don't know.

Bumpage/Marriott Rewards

DHS is a pain in the ass.

It seems that searching my bags was not enough. I got selected for secondary screening when I went through the x-ray, and was given the old 3x over with the magic wand. They found nothing.

I'm starting to think that arriving in the states wearing an orange skirt, and a beard is perhaps not the best thing - even after I explained to the customs guy that Thailand has the death penalty for drugs - and that I'd be a complete idiot to bring anything in the country.

However, after all that - fate seemed to smile at me.

My flight from San Francisco -> Washington DC was heavily oversold, with a number of business-men who had paid full price fares and were demanding to be in DC that night....

I happily gave up my ticket, was put on a flight to Baltimore leaving 15 minutes later - and in exchange, was given a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the US + a one-way upgrade to 1st class for my next United trip. Awesome!

Fate continued to smile on me....

Kat met me at the airport, we drove to DC. On the way, I called up the Marriott and asked to speak to the manager. I explained the bump-situation, and told him that we'd had to rent a car to get from Baltimore to DC. Was there any way he could waive the $27 parking fee? He Could? Lovely.... He also confirmed that they'd given us a free upgrade from a deluxe room to a junior suite.

However - once we got to the hotel, I did my very best to flirt with the manager-on-duty. After a few minutes of heavily-British-Accented chatting with him (man/woman, it's all the same if it gets us a nicer hotel room), he announced that he'd upgraded us to an executive suite, and that he'd given us an extra-late checkout time of 5PM. Woo!!

The room.. oh, the room.

A huge bed, 2 bathrooms, a living room with a huge dining table, a mini-kitchen, and a HUGE rooftop balcony overlooking the NPR headquarters on K street.

The next morning, I called down to the reservations desk, and found out that the room would normally have cost $600.

The power of flirting, and a British accent!

The Journey/ US Customs

Stayed up until 4AM at an internet cafe on Khao San Road, Bangkok... took a cab to the airport to be there when checkin opened, and scored exit row seats for the whole of the journey. Great!

The trip was rather uneventful for the first two flights. Lots of sleep, lots of legroom, amazing indian vegetarian meals (that made my seat-mates somewhat jealous, I think).

Things got rather interesting once I got to San Francisco airport.

First off, the passport screener immigration guy wrote "BCG" in big red letters on my immigration card. I peered over at other folks, all of whom lacked the letters, and knew that I was already in trouble.

While waiting for my bag to show up, a cop+dog wanders by, and starts to sniff my carry-on bag. I make nice, start a conversation, and ask the Customs agent the name of her dog. "I'm sorry sir, we can't reveal that for security reasons".

Thats right. It's perfectly ok for her own name to be pinned to her chest, but the dog is kept in some kind of dog-protection-program limbo.

Eventually, the dog sniffs out the orange i'd saved from my breakfast, the woman seizes it, and writes something else on my card (it seems that the undercover dog sniffs food, and not drugs).

I present myself to the final customs check, where-upon looking at my immigration card (now covered in red and black ink from various agents), he sends me over for 2nd and 3rd screening.

My bag is x-rayed, and then i'm sent over to a gentleman who proceeds to open up my bag, and ask me to identify every item.. "That is toothpaste, those are dirty clothes, those are drugs..."

I have 2 first aid kits in my bag - I've been in the 3rd world, and you can get lots of nasty things - so I've got lots of meds. The funny thing is, he doesn't seem to want to look inside. I could have all kinds of opiate-derived painkillers/viagara/or worse, but he doesn't care.

After asking me a bunch of questions (where did you go, why did you go there for so long, how did you afford to live in India for all that time, etc) - he lets me go.

Now - as a security student, I have to state that this was pretty stupid.

1. Marking my card in such an obvious way when I could easily go to the bathroom and flush anything illegal I had, or even leave my bag on the belt... If you're going to pull someone, don't tip them off ahead of time with big red letters.

2. The guy made a big scene of looking in my bag, but really didn't search it that well. I could have had lots and lots of drugs, and he never would have found them.

All this did was piss me off, and make me miss my chance at catching an earlier connecting flight.