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

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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing