Escape from Alcatraz (or thereabouts)…

If you are going to have immigration problems in todays post 9/11 environment, it is going to be in getting into the US, right? Coming back home should be a breeze, right? Think again…the reality is the opposite.

As documented may posts ago, clearing US immigration to enter the US was painless and fast. The immigration officer even gave us great advice for touring the San Diego Zoo that turned out to be perfect. He also advised us on things to avoid. He was great!

To leave SF, first we had to find the airport in one-way street and unmarked highway SF. Contrary to what you might think, driving in LA was the easiest of all. San Diego had been no big deal either. SF was another story. Unlike my wife, I have no hesitation in driving anywhere, under any conditions, but SF was particularly ‘challenging’. The entire downtown is one way streets that make Ottawa’s one way streets seem infrequent. Virtually EVERY street is one way. For a native SF driver this is likely no big deal, but for the tourist it is a challenge. Combine that with less than great road makings on the freeways, and it took a while to find the Budget Rental Car drop-off at the airport.

Figuring that we were home free now, we innocently proceeded to the United Airlines check in with plenty of time to spare before our 11.30pm departure time. We were getting pretty tired though after a long day touring the city.

Then, at check-in, came the surprise. The automated check-in for Linda and I was trivial, but it rejected Lynette as requiring ‘individual checkin’. Off to the manual check-in line.

They looked at our ID, etc., but the system still wouldn’t co-operate. Wierd, they puzzled. After the clerk made a couple of calls it turns out that it is the CANADIAN system that is the problem. You can enter the US with ID and birth certificate no sweat (in fact even a baptismal certificate is good enough for US immigration). Try to get back into your own country, however, and the Canadian system wants a passport to clear you for a boarding pass at the US departure point. They don’t advertise this, they just do it summarily. I could say impolite things about our government, but you get the idea. I could also complain to External Affairs, but that would be as useful as banging my head on the wall – as you, my faithful reader, likely already understand.

After some hassling by a wonderfully helpful United Airline clerk, the boarding passes were issued manually. She had at least assured us that we would be going despite this silliness.

So our family joke is that our teen daughter is the suspected security risk 🙂

The incoming flight was delayed in Denver and arrived late, but we finally got in the air just after midnight (3am after we dutifully changed out watches to Eastern time). I am beginning to think that today no flight leaves on time.

We were a little worried about our short connection in Washington, but when that flight was also late we had lots of time.


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