Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Monday, February 21, 2005

Saturday morning I got a phone call soliciting volunteers for hazardous duty... Someone had to go to Miami and sort out a non-responsive server. I valiantly stepped up and volunteered to take one for the team. My flight was for 2:00 so I was planning to show up at the airport and get listed on the flight (standby) at 12:30.

I swung by the office and picked up the keys for the office in Miami and my ticket, and realized, to my horror, that since we didn't have a safe in our office anymore, I took my passport home and it was on my dresser. I jumped in the jeep and tore-ass back out to that end of the island and picked it up and got to the airport with minutes to spare, at 12:50. That was when I saw that the flight was delayed 55 minutes, so I ended up having plenty of time. Time enough to go to Quizno's and get a sandwich before leaving.

I went through security no problem, got patted down because my belt buckle set off the metal detector, through immigration and into the departure lounge. When they called my flight, I queued up and went outside to the tarmac... where I was stopped again and searched. I've been singled out before, and they check your laptop again, and just sorta take a peek around. Not this guy, he went through the three magazines I had in my carry-on almost page by page making sure there was nothing between any pages, he squished and fondled every article of clothing in there, he pulled out a 3 inch cd-rom that I had sitting in one of the zippered pockets and examined it like he was looking for heiroglyphics on the silver side of the disc. Then he opened my toilet bag, and checked every single thing in there, even down to opening the little plastic tube my toothbrush travels in. I guess that was to make sure that I didn't just escape from prison and have a 6” shiv in there or something. After that he patted me down again and was so intimate about it, I almost expected to get flowers afterward.

The flight was unremarkable, and we landed in Miami and debarked. When we got into the immigration hall, it was packed. Lines extended all the way to the back wall. I moved along to the left of the room with all the unwashed masses, as usually where the room is narrower the lines are smaller. Not today. I stood in line and pulled out my headphones. Fortunately I had my MP3 player with a full charge on it.

90 minutes and three magazines later I made it from the back wall to the pillars mid-room. At that point, I realized that the only reason we moved up at all in the last 90 minutes was because people were getting out of line and going to other lines. I should have taken a cue from them right then, but the flipside was “hey if everyone is leaving this line, then this line will be shorter”. I took out a pen and some paper and started timing the various lines around us. People who were still in the air when we landed were getting through before our line was. Another 60 mins and I was at least in sight of the desk. 30 mins after that I was four people from the front of the line.

The dipshit who was processing this line of people has got to be the slowest, most inefficient piece of garbage to ever put on an INS/DHS badge. His AVERAGE time per-person was over SEVEN MINUTES. The agents on either side of him, three minutes. From the time I started keeping track, he sent 15 people through to immigration, and turned away an elderly couple who had just got off the Virgin Atlantic flight from London. These people weren't just old, they were ELDERLY. Slow-walking, white-haired elderly. And he turned them from the line because they filled out one form for both of them rather than one form each (they should probably highlight that on the forms... customs form is one per family, immigration is one per family, but visa waiver forms are individual) They went back to the back of the hall, filled out another form, and came back and stood at the back of the line. EVERY SINGLE PERSON (me included) waved them ahead of us back to the front of the line. When the asshole at the counter looked up and saw it, he actually scowled. He finally finished with the person he was dealing with, and before the elderly couple even walked up to him, he flipped his little supervisor light and they were 'taken away' for processing elsewhere. Ten minutes later, there were two couples left ahead of me in line, and the jerkoff went off-shift and someone else came and took over his counter. He processed the two couples ahead of me (including the fingerprint and camera bullshit) in 4 minutes, and then I was through in about 90 seconds.

It was probably just as well that the asshole went off shift, because there's no easier way to get a few fingers jammed up your ass then to lip off someone at INS.

End Immigration Rant

Begin Miami Rant

Unless you're specifically going to the Miami Boat Show, my recommendation is to just STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM SOUTH FLORIDA altogether. No rental cars, no hotel rooms, everything is busy... I had to wait around the counter at Alamo waiting for a car, any car, to get checked in and become available so they could rent it out to me. I finally left the airport at 7:35 PM. There were no hotel rooms available either. Eventually, I took the last room available at the Hampton Inn Blue Lagoon for $279 for the night.

I got to the office just before 8pm and got lost in the business park because I had never been there at night before and it all looked different. My erratic driving and squealing tires attracted the attention of a security guard, who helped me find the right building, and then I was OK. I grabbed a Coke from the vending machine, turned on the lights and sat down to figure out what was wrong with the server (other than it was non-responsive). I tried to VNC it, I tried to ping it, nothing. I went to the server room and flipped the KVM switch over to that server, and nothing. No response. Since it was already unresponsive, and I couldn't get the screen to wake up or the keyboard to work, I figured poking it in the eye wouldnt really do much more damage. I took a deep breath and held down the power button until it stopped struggling and was quiet. I let it sit for a minute, and then pushed the power button back on. The monitor came alive, the LEDs on the keyboard lit up and the BIOS screen appeared. After that windows booted up and started, and I logged in and checked the event log. Everything seemed to be OK, I fired up the ISA management tool and everything was in the green. I went back to the workstation that my Coke was at and tried to get online. Success.

End Miami Rant.

I managed to make it to a Circuit City on my way back to the hotel, as they were open til 10:00. I picked up the last iPod Shuffle 1gb that they had (Sorry, Seb... I asked if they had more in the back...) and rather than announce my lemming-like buying habits with the white earbuds, I chose instead a pair of Sony MDR-EX71 earbuds. Oh.My.God. First of all, the earbuds themselves are tiny and silver, like two little beads of mercury. They actually sit inside your ear canal and come with a few different sized earpieces if you have big ears or small ears. They sounded awesome. The next morning on the flight home, I was listening to my MP3 player and reading Popular Mechanics and didn't hear the flight attendant ask me if I wanted a beverage. He tapped me on the shoulder and I looked up, and he asked me again if I would like a beverage but I could not hear him say anything whatsoever. After that I did a little real-world test with my old favorites, the Sony Fontopia headphones that cost $8 at Best Buy and the MDR-EX71s which were $50 at Circuit City. With the Fontopias, I had to crank the volume up to 20 (out of 30) in order to sound “loud” over the ambient noise in the plane. With the EX71s, I turned the volume down to 5, slipped them in and played the same song. What a difference. The Ex71s blocked out I would say between 80 and 90 percent of the ambient noise of the airplane and with the volume at 15, it was louder than the other buds at 20. And that's without “active” noise cancellation, like with the Bose QuietComfort2 cans. That said, the Bose ones are still on my wish list :)

Monday, February 21, 2005 8:13:44 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Gadgets | Travel#
Tuesday, March 1, 2005 2:36:31 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I soooooo empathised with your rant about the Immigration situation in Miami. Thanks to these guys, the day before yesterday we managed to miss our flight to GCM having been traveling all day from Zurich. We asked an inspector who was wandering about if we (due to our now very short connection) could join the line for Special Services, which was processing the last people. He said yes, so we did. We then got an absolute earful from the a-hole in uniform. He informed us that HE didn't work for any AIRLINE, but was an IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, letting us know that he was king of his realm and we were worse than s***. He still put us through and in spite of that we still missed KX to GCM. The worst of it is that airlines don't even give you a voucher if slow lines at immigration is the reason for your missing your onward flight. Ten days prior to this we had been through the kind of lines you described, and people were all discussing the situation whilst waiting. The unanimous verdict was that Miami is the WORST BY FAR in the U.S.A., even in New York they are much speedier. It is soooooo frustrating not being able to protest this situation so it certainly helps to get if off your chest with a rant!!!
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