SyneRyder - journal

USA Trip 2005 - Part 1

July 2005

Flying to the USA

My first solo overseas flight.

The passengers in my row were quite chatty, but in a good way. There were 4 seats in a row: to my left was a kid about my age from Seattle. He gave me a few tips about his hometown that proved useful later in the trip. On my right was a guy from Wollongong who works for Oracle, so we talked about tech topics for a while. To the right of him was a Jewish guy, who was a bit talkative. Most amusing was that in my row, I had my Palm Treo to listen to MP3 music, the guy next to me had one of the new iPod Shuffles, and the Jewish guy had a large esoteric portable music and video player. So we were really in tech-row.

View from the aircraft window

United Airlines was iffy at best. The staff on the flight weren't very pleasant, though they did their job in most cases. There were some amusing moments when their "scripts" didn't quite work out:

"For tonight's meal, you will have a choice between the Beef, and the Chicken. We only have limited quantities of all choices, so please have in mind a second choice when asked."

Then they slipped up playing the Arrivals Information video tape. It includes all the information of how to pass through immigration, where to collect your bags from, and how to catch your connecting flights. So as we touched down in San Francisco, it was a shock when the video began:

"Welcome to Auckland Airport. We hope you have enjoyed your flight with us. Auckland Airport is situated 20km south of Auckland...."

For a split second, I thought I'd caught the wrong flight. Fortunately, they did play the San Francisco tape just in time - though not without the pilot talking over some crucial information. It must have been really important that we know the air temperature outside was currently 60 degrees Fahrenheit...

Despite the guys in my row telling me horror stories about US Customs, it really wasn't so bad. On arrival at San Francisco, Customs took my photograph and two digital fingerprints, asked me the purpose of my trip ("Mostly a holiday, although I'm attending a conference in my first week") and the length of stay (about 32 days) and that was all for the main customs. After collecting my bags, they looked at my customs forms and sent me through the Nothing To Declare section. I was out of the airport quickly, caught a taxi quickly (once I found the taxi rank and got used to the cars being on the right side of the road), and was at the hotel and checked in - all by 11am.