Dom Joly: For a cheery welcome at Dulles, pose as a doughnut

Share
Related Topics

I'm in Washington DC for four days. I decided it would be fun for my daughter to celebrate her 10th birthday in the capital of the USA. I've got all kinds of stuff lined up for her: the International Spy Museum, the theatre box where Lincoln was shot, the Vietnam war memorial....

My wife took a look at my proposed itinerary and suggested in a quietly aggressive manner that this might not be the ideal trip for a 10-year-old. I stood my ground – what was not to like? I got a kick in the shins. To top it all, the city is insufferable in the late summer: it is built on a swamp and mind-blowingly humid. Anyone sane leaves the place to the tourist masses.

We landed at Dulles airport in a balmy 35C and 90 per cent humidity. Dulles is without a shadow of a doubt the worst airport in the world. For somewhere that services the American capital, it is a complete disgrace.

We joined a queue of more than 1,000 people waiting to have our passports processed by only two officials. The entry process takes, on average, five minutes for each person; I worked out that we had about 41 hours until we got to the booth where a red light would buzz once they saw I was born in Beirut and I would be directed to the "Arab room". Over in the US citizen line there were 10 manned booths and the queue moved smoothly.

The message to non-citizens was that we were not priority goods. Everywhere videos blared out insanely upbeat messages welcoming you to the US and telling you that courtesy and respect were uppermost in everyone's mind. The reality was the complete opposite: Ellis Island had nothing on Dulles airport.

Uniformed lady-mountains waddled about and any attempt to ask for information was rapidly quashed.

"Excuse me?"

"Wadddyyya want?"

"I was just wondering how long this might take as we've been standing here for three hours now...." The lady mountain interrupted: "What language are you speaking?" I was dumbfounded. "Uuum, I'm speaking English."

"You just gotta wait like everyone else." She waddled off, clearly having smelt doughnuts in the air.

I grabbed yet another lady-mountain who was munching on a bagel the size of a car tyre. "Excuse me, could you tell us whether more officials will start work soon?"

"Honey... you just gotta' wait. You don't like it, you can get a plane home."

It was the use of the word honey that annoyed me, but experience had taught me never to look remotely angry in an American airport – this could be an imprisonable offence.

Once all of the US citizens had been processed, two more officials started to service our line while the rest disappeared to the Krispy Kreme suite. It took us four-and-half hours to have out passports checked, and I was duly dispatched to the "Arab room" for further investigation.

My wife and my daughter sat next to me for a further two hours while they ascertained my potential security risk. Parker suddenly looked at her watch. "It's midnight in the UK. It's my birthday, I'm 10."

"Happy birthday, baby," we both chimed, trying to make this a more enjoyable experience than it was.

"I hate America," said Parker.

We laughed overly loudly and tried to conceal her radical thoughts from anyone around us. Words like that could land you in serious trouble in the land of the free. All around sat disgruntled travellers of Middle Eastern origins. At the start of their journey they'd probably rather liked the US, but things were changing rapidly.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas