Arrival in Detroit

Arrived in Detroit on time. Flying over the city showed already that this place is not very touristy. Typical American checkerboard city layout, sprawling as far as the eye could see.

There are two things you immediately notice about the Detroit airport. One is the horrible-looking, ancient carpet, and the 1960s feel it gives the place. The second thing is the signs that tell you where to go. They are blue, with white labeling – in what looks to me to be Chinese. No English. Nothing. Just chinese. There’s really only one way to go, too, so one might question whether you’d need signs anyway, but it’s quite strange that they’d have chinese-only signs. Maybe chinese people try to walk through walls if you don’t tell them what to do? Living in a highly-controlled society (or, a dictatorship, whatever) might do that to people, as George Orwell illustrated in “1984”.

A little while later, when there are actually choices about what way to take, the airport staff helpfully added Spanish text to the signs. Go figure.

Nonetheless, it was no problem to find the immigration section. The lines were short; I walked to one where the INS guy didn’t look too annoyed yet, figuring I might need a little patience on his part. In the background a martial announcer voice was talking over the PA. “All luggage must be processed before being transferred to connecting flights. Welcome to the United States.”

There was some delay in front of me because an old woman didn’t quite understand the instructions. The INS guy was patient with her – good, I had made the right choice. I waited. Somewhere, a tough black woman in uniform was yelling at people to stop using their mobiles. Rule #1 if you want to enter a foreign country: Always, always do what the signs tell you to do. At least until you passed the border controls.

A few minutes later, it was my turn. I immediately made a fool out of myself for forgetting to answer the rear side of the Visa Waiver form – a mistake I feel is pretty telling, considering the quality of the questions on that side. Have I ever been a terrorist or a member of the NSDAP? Sure, I’ll just say “yes” to these.

After I had managed to go through three pens (one of theirs, and two of mine) to answer all questions, and my forms were actually filled out completely, the guy went on to the interview section of the procedure.

“Are you here for business or personal reasons?”

“Personal.”

“How long do you intend to stay?”

I glanced at my watch. “About twenty-five hours.”

He looked at me. “And then you’ll leave again?”

“Yes.”

“Going where?”

“Back to Frankfurt.”

“What do you do here for just one day?”

“Well these guys I know are hosting a comedy show tonight and I figured it’d be fun to drop by.” I trailed off a little, realizing I must sound a little strange.

He paused just a beat. “Let me see your return ticket.”

I handed him the passenger receipt. “Don’t have the actual ticket yet, as it’s an electronic ticket,” I apologized.

At this point I was wondering whether he’d flag me as “suspicious” or “insane”. However he did take my fingerprints and my photo and stamped the approval on my visa.

“Isn’t that a little strange to come here all the way just for a … a what?” He asked as he handed me back my passport.

“Comedy show,” I replied and shrugged. I figured I might as well tell him about my employer; that usually helps people to understand a little better. He remained sceptical.

“Well,” he said. “Enjoy your show then. Welcome to the United States.”

“Thanks,” I told him. “If you wanna drop by, it’s at Club Bart in Ferndale at 10.”

“Believe me,” he laughed. “I’d love to see a show that someone’s flying over from Germany for. But I’ll have to stay here.”

We bidded each other farewell and I entered US territory.

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