Arrival in Phoenix, being the first stage of my US tour

Filed under: US tour 2009 — iain @ 18:28:00

Phoenix Sky Harbor claims to be the world’s friendliest airport. I don’t know if that is true, though I suspect it is the world’s best-named airport. I do know that it’s a decent and efficient airport to fly into. I found that out on October 19th. Later I would learn that it’s a thoroughly depressing place to fly out of. Three weeks later, in fact. For a moment, as I descended the stairs to Immigration, I worried that I might discover more about the outbound facilities much sooner than planned.

The very first words I heard spoken on my very first trip to the US were "wrong way boss" as a security guard indicated to one of the arriving passengers that rather than head towards all the desks with the immigration officers waiting to fingerprint you and ask you if the purpose of your visit was to commit a terrorist act, she had indeed chosen to go the wrong way.

At that moment I was suddenly terrified that I wouldn’t even make it through to the next room. Surely I would be deported for making some smartarse comment while getting my fingerprints done.

Maybe sooner.

The unnecessarily long immigration procedure meant that there was a lengthy and slow-moving queue of people snaking round the room. I joined it behind what appeared at first glance to be an overweight teenager. The "overweight" conclusion was easy to reach; he was indeed on the large side. The "teenager" part I discerned from his dire need of razor-on-upper-lip action and the way he could emit nothing more than monosyllablic grunts in response to the friendly greeting from a member of airport staff.

You know you’re a frequent flyer when airport security recognise you. That or you’re of middle-eastern descent and are in Phoenix. "How was the wedding?" asked the official, being just as friendly as she could. Wait, what? The wedding? This guy’s married? Perhaps he isn’t a teenager after all. "Hrrmph!" he replied.

The "conversation" continued in similar vein for a brief time before the gluttonous groom revealed that he really could talk but had trouble remembering how to fill in landing cards. "Where it says ‘Country of Origin’," – friendly raise of the eyebrows from the girl – "do I put Kuwait?" Well let’s see … did your country of origin change since the last time you were here? Or were you thinking of your wife’s?

Eventually the chap figured out how to fill in the paperwork he’d filled in who knows how many times before, remembered where he was from and managed to make it to the front of the queue. I occupied the remainder of time waiting for it to be my turn my telling myself not to make any sarcastic comments. I’d managed to restrict myself to one when the jobsworth checkin desk guy had questioned whether my cabin-size luggage was actually cabin-size and told me that yes I really did need to go all the way over to the measure-your-bag contraption and prove that it would fit. Later, after the guy checking my passport at departures had made some snide comment about me being from Birmingham I had skilfully avoided asking if he was trying to catch me out by checking if I knew what was written on my travel document or if he made it a habit to insult people.

Finally my turn at the desk. Just one more official to get past without cracking wise and they’d let me in the country… "Purpose of visit?" -"Business then pleasure." He looked up quizzically. "Business then pleasure?" -"Yes. I’m here on business. And then I’m going to visit some friends." -"Business then pleasure. Make sure you do it in the right order." Yes, quite.

And with that I was in. I was in the US. I had had my photograph taken, given my fingerprints, explained why I was here – nothing to do with overthrowing the government – and now I was … oh wait, customs. "Do you have any alcohol or food with you?" -"I wish."

After claiming my bag I made my way to Ground Transportation, which is American for The Exit, and looked around for the driver to take me to the hotel.

He wasn’t there. And that was because he didn’t exist. After observing that neither of the two blokes holding up signs with people’s names on were holding up a sign with my name on, and reviewing the hotel reservation documentation I’d been given, I concluded that I would have to make my own way to the Arizona Grand Resort.

So I did. Yeah, so that part of the story isn’t terribly exciting. The hotel is only five miles away the airport and there were lots of friendly taxis waiting. I was there in no time. And soon riding on a golf cart.

The Arizona Grand Resort, you see, is aptly named. It is in Arizona for a start. It is certainly grand, boasting a variety of excellent suites and villas which earn it a five-star rating. And it is a resort. There’s a water park, horse riding trail, sports facilities and all sorts of amenities. People bring their families for holidays there. And it has a golf course. Thus I was delivered to my room on a golf cart and told, after I explained that only my dire need of a shower was keeping out of the bar, that I need only call and the cart would come scooting back to whisk me anywhere in the resort I might wish to go. As it was a pleasant 38 degrees and I’d been sat in airports, on planes and in taxis for hours at a stretch, I declined. A nice walk was a much more appealing prospect.

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