Thursday, July 05, 2007

Musings on Guam Airport revised and revisited

I sent this to a few of the edgier journals out there, and a tamer version to a few others. I was greeted mostly with silence. I don't have national media contacts, and certainly don't have the patience or slavish demeanor to beg them to run something I know is better than 2/3 of the safe, dull, middle of the road stuff they print. I also don't have the published writer's requisite skill of dealing with rejection or indifference very well. If you can link to this from some type of webzine with an audience that likes edgy, humorous stuff with a political bent, please link to this, as I feel it deserves a wider audience. Jeff

Out in Micronesia, just a small radar blip in the Pacific, sits Guam International Airport. Like many airports, it is a vast, packaged, neon vestibule of unhealthy, overpriced fast food, the mind boggling curiosity of duty free shops, and a more common currency: aggravated Asian travelers. One notable difference is that Guam is an America much closer to Hong Kong and Tokyo than New York or Los Angeles .

Guam is a full blown U.S. territory like Puerto Rico and a common transfer hub for Asian travelers to Hawaii, Australia and other locales. Guam has two well known monikers. Fiscal conservatives noting the federal dole that Guam, and other Pacific Islands survive on, say Guam stands for Give Us American Money, while retired military expats familiar with the more lascivious, neighboring locations of Thailand and the Philippines say Guam stands for Give Up And Masturbate.

A traveler doesn’t have to visit Guam, a popular beach vacation site for Japanese honeymooners, to feel the hysteria post 9/11. A mere transfer will suffice for this dog to bite as America continues to expand global alienation on a more personal front: airport security. I speak from recent personal experience.

I get off the plane in Guam after getting a quite thorough screening at Palau International Airport. Palau is one of the most renowned scuba diving locations on the planet, its main tourist draw and the one that brought me there, and is in Free Compact of Association with the United States, which basically means Palauans can enter the United States without visa issue, and the U.S. provides them with economic aid. The U.S. in return gets a claim on a place that is famously part of the “Coalition of the Willing” from Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.


The first thing I have to do in Guam right off the plane from Palau at 4 am: Welcome to the United States. “Take your shoes off sir, belt, all metals, and are your nuts still attached, if not, please place them in this basket for inspection.” I might need them, so they are staying connected, sorry, use the wand, and tickle a little bit since it's 4 am, I'm on the redeye from hell, I'm stuck in your shithole airport and I need a cheap thrill. I just got off an airplane, I didn't go anywhere near an unchecked civilian, so this begs the obvious question of why do I have to go through the shoe routine again, not to mention another x-ray, take off your belt, shave your pubes routine in case you're hiding some well placed plutonium in your sac region? Why again!!!! Is Guam security so much more thorough than the last TSA manned airport? One idiot tried something with his shoes years ago and people the planet over have to go through these shoe theatrics without end in sight. Please. I've had times when there have been three shoe checks for one trip. The only real threat my shoes offer is the one they hold to pleasant smells. I saw one Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) officer examine my flip flops with the wrapt attention of Howard Carter opening King Tut's tomb.

Leaving Palau, the existence of shaving cream in my checked, not carry on, luggage caused a literal ten minute investigation. I might be the only one with a toothbrush coming from Palau, but I can't be the only one who shaves. Throughout Micronesia locals suffer massive dental issues from their love of a tree fruit called betel nut, which is generally stuffed with cigarette pieces, mixed with powdered lime to break it down for easier chewing, and wrapped in a pepper leaf to provide a nice buzz. There are probably more cigarettes chewed than smoked in Micronesia. Betelnut is a common addiction in Micronesia and has similar health, dental and aesthetic issues as chewing tobacco.

The war on terror, I mean hygiene continues, though. I had deodorant in my carry on, which is legal, but that still entailed a Nuremberg type deliberation since somehow Old Spice equals Al Qaeda. At some point someone needs to snap and say, “Use some sense, you soulless automaton!” I’m convinced they must electroshock all vestiges of independent thought and common sense out of these people at TSA Academy.

After the foiled UK plot a few months back, the liquid and hygiene situation is the latest overreaction. The silliness over water continues unabated. If you can drink it, and demonstrate that it isn't some Mission Impossible liquid bomb, let it go. It's water, like 80 percent of the human body. Chill out Nurse Ratched. We don't examine most any cargo coming into the states, but three shoe checks and no water, so we’re supposed to think we're safe. What a bunch of babies we’ve become, not to mention that this American airport in Asia is as welcoming as a punch to the stomach.Then Guam security sets up this rope to subdivide the airport and actually block you from your gate. This is designed so they can give the new arrivals the stare for the Battan style march to the slaughter at the pointless Guam immigration check in counter, and if you, the already harassed, step on the wrong side at the wrong time, they threaten you with a fresh round of shoe checks, X rays and quite possibly a trip to Guantanamo Bay. Even an American traveler like me feels cowed from asking the obvious question of why do I have to clear immigration in Guam when I am not staying there, or not be able to head to my gate yet because others need to go through this ridiculous routine? Doesn’t my name go down on the easily identifiable “previously manhandled” list?

With all this security you’d think Guam International Airport would be a hub for all travelers, but nope, they won't let Filipinos, and others from less prosperous countries, transfer through without a full blown U.S. Visa.

It is still the middle of the night, I've got a long layover in Hades, and there is hardly anyone in the place, so sleep seems in order. I'm not expecting the Ritz Carlton, just to sack out in peace on their mangy carpet. Naturally, sleep is hard to come by with a blaring announcement over the loudspeaker every fifteen minutes not to leave your bags unattended and to report any suspicious activity to the Guam Gestapo.

These security pros clearly find travelers annoying, so they briefly held me hostage on my initial layover. I couldn't exit without a Continental representative to walk me through immigration like it was my first day of kindergarten. I ate at the lousy food court, so I wasn’t exiting completely within the allotted time. Since this was inconvenient to security, I had this bozo airport cop on a power trip interrogating me on whether my green tea in a cup was beer. What am I twelve, what if it was? His invented regulation: “You can't take green tea out onto the streets of Guam sir.” I'm sure the teeming masses of Guam appreciate that kind of protection. I was going to mention that I saw one guy with an apple, and if he could stop him, he might get a Homeland Security appointment in the Bush administration, but I really wasn’t in any mood to undergo extraordinary rendition and be re-routed for less comfortable questioning in Syria, so I merely smiled and sheepishly surrendered my $3.00 beverage before heading out of the Taliban’s new headquarters.

Guam Airport is the United States government in microcosm: reactionary, bullying, lacking common sense and self-important. The terrorists have already won since we are a bunch of drunk on fear ninnies, alienating both Americans and citizens of the world’s fastest growing economies with our bullshit.

12 comments:

4n0n3m0u5e said...

ah the joys of air travel. glad you were able to get it off your chest.
Fred

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Thank you, Lewis Black

glend558 said...

And for being a bad boy you get to spend two days in the Guam airport, going through customs over and over again.

Marianas Eye said...

Jeff,

I hope you don't' give up on this publishing thing. You're writing is great and your voice unmistakable. At the very least, you ought to have a weekly column in one of the local papers.

d

Chamaolette said...

I had similar sentiments in going through Guam International in January 2007. I couldn't have put all of this so eloquently :) However, are you really surprised Filipinos need visas to enter the US?

Jeff said...

They aren't entering the U.S. They can't even transfer to their connecting flight to Hong Kong or wherever having never left the Guam airport. It's outrageous.

Ray said...

they screen you good comming from Palau because they got the good weed. so I hear.

Anonymous said...

Too bad you don't log or post here that much anymore. Would love to educate you about Guam and the shit you had to go through when you merely transited through its airport. I know you're full of shit when you said that right off the plane from Palau you had to take off your shoes and get wanded. Total bullshit. Stop making up crap.

Coming from Palau (which is a FOREIGN country), you have to go through Immigration inspection with US CBP. Needless? Really? Then why the fuck do we inspect people coming from Canada and Mexico? Hey EVERYONE! This guys believes that if you come from Palau, you should get a free pass into the USA! Oh, and don't say "US CITIZENS with US PASSPORTS" shouldn't have to go through an inspection? Why the fuck not? Maybe you've never seen a fake US passport before,huh? Ho shit! The Koreans are good at making them! And...they are only two hours away and four hours away from Guam!

Would you be content allowing anybody coming off a flight from Palau just walk into your house? Oh, please. Next time, you should thank those CBP officers in Guam for intercepting several IRANIAN nationals with fake passports who tried to make it all the way to the mainland U.S. Didn't know about that, huh? You're so focused on how much you're inconvenienced that you don't even see how ignorant you are. Guam may be in the middle of nowhere to you, but it's the closest, cheapest, and fastest way to get into YOUR country for others.

You may have noticed that you arrived with another or even several other flights when going through Immigration. Guess what? Those people weren't inspected by TSA in the country they came from. Would you trust your parachute if it had a "Made in China" on it or a "Made in the U.S.A?" Well, shit...aren't you happy knowing that the good folks working at TSA are AMERICANS like you and me who are doing their jobs to ensure your whining ass is safe? As far as TSA goes, they are adapting to a poorly designed airport run by an underfunded local government. Because passengers from arriving flights intermingle, they have to go through TSA to ensure they are inspected "to standard." Try asking for the TSA supervisor next time to see what they've confiscated. Ever see someone packing bottles of bleach or other chemical in they're carryon? IN A FUCKING thermos??? Well, shit..you ain't see nothing brother! Just because you're not carrying anything hazardous doesn't mean the guy on the plane next to you isn't. Next time, thank a TSA screener for paying attention and keeping that shit off your flight.

Finally, the truth is folks, this loser went through an IMMIGRATION examination and a TSA security check. If you showed your passport to other people, those were AIRLINE personnel. Now, if you continued on to Honolulu directly from Guam, you would have seen Immigration one last time. Why? Because CONGRESS mandated that flights going non-stop from Guam to Hawaii be checked to ensure there are no Guam Visa Waiver admission, no illegal aliens, no fucking wanted criminals, etc., getting on the plane and sitting next to your whiney ass. It's people like you who think they know it all that makes me puke. I'm a CBP Officer in Guam and I know why I'm inspecting everybody that tries to come into my house. Just pray that I'm not sleeping on the job when that rapist/serial killer with a fake passport, running from Indonesian authorities tries to come into the USA to buttfuck your wife. Oh, yeah, I forgot. I already caught that motherfucker.

Yes, it's an inconvenience. But there's a reason for the so-called "madness." Educate yourself vs. being a fucking whiner. You sound retarded.

ed cruz
cruzer_85@yahoo.com

Jeff said...

I must have been nuts to suggest Guam TSA has problems with their own sense of importance. Jack Bauer apparently is living in Guam, reading my blog and unable to express his thoughts without numerous profanities.

Palau may be a "foreign" country, but it has fellow TSA running the show, doing the five shoe checks, being unaware of the rules on deoderant. Apparently Guam TSA doesn't trust their colleagues, so they do start the shoe check as soon as you are off the plane.

Your airport is also a model of efficiency, I must be nuts. No one who transfers to another flight has to completely leave the airport, and check in again because none of you idiots are on duty. And you are all so friendly as well -- just like at this comment - one you must be taught at TSA customer service training.

Anyway, glad you people are not "asleep" anymore. You are now doing a fantastic job on water bottles. Middle Eastern men with box cutters, not so much. But why would that send up any red flags when the next guy was traveling with shampoo?

Joe Public said...

The CPB is not TSA so thatshows me you don't have a clue what your talking about.Most of what CPB guy said is true. If GIAA could afford to renovate we wouldn't have dividers, the fact is TSA doesn't control that it's the airport board to blame for that. Flying is a privlige just like driving it's your choice if you want to go through the redlight which is designed for your safety, it may however get you arrested or fined. Quit complaining as I have more reason to bit@h when I have to go through screening than anyone on this blog because of my job. I won't say what but believe me I could complain. Instead I do what is right and follow the rules and thank the TSO for keeping the skies safe. I also stop at redlights at night when noone is around. You are pathetic quit whining.

Jeff said...

I try to make it a rule to not argue with humorless, self-important morons who can't distinguish "your" from "you're." I suspect you got into this job so you can needlessly grope other guys.

Espinaca Verde said...

Travelling within Japan, one can take on board a plane items that are prohibited in the USA. Korea requires transit passengers to go through screening a second time.
We got what we deserved when the world trade center was hit. we bomb other people in their homelands, so far from america and bitch and whine when they fight back. Don't they know we are the good guys.
I fly regularly from USA west coast to Japan. Japanese airport officials are much easier in screening than the boobs in America. What the Japanese don't understand is that they can't bring toothpaste or sexual lubricant with them on the plane but we can travel with (and I do from time to time)firearms and ammunition, in checked baggage of course.
TSA has to stay with us for the future. What's going to happen when those otherwise unemployable employees have to go to work. I am always amazed at SFO how many broken down individuals have jobs as TSA inspectors. That guy who wrote so much criticizing the author sounds like a typical asshole employed as a security agent by the US government. Chew that betal nut ed, maybe being stoned will loosen you a bit.
Folks, go visit Malaysia. You will be welcome and the paranoia that affects America and washington in particular will be absent. You won't miss it, trust me.