I distinctively remember my first “visit” to the States. I was in middle school, on a trip to Cancun, Mexico. Not spring break woohoo Cancun (sadly) since I was only 13. We had a short transfer in Dallas after a 15 hour plane ride from Shanghai. After landing, we had to go through security and customs.
I remember this part so clearly. After waiting in line for what felt like forever, I finally approached the person who checks your passport / boarding pass before you put your shit into a tray and whatnot. She was a big black woman. I remember her appearance simply because I wasn’t accustomed to black people. I AM NOT A RACIST. There just wasn’t (and still isn’t) a large black population in Asia. Anyway, that’s besides the point. She looked at my passport, and let out a snort. “Gurrl, what kinda name is dat? Bet dey make fun of you in skoo?” And I looked at her, baffled. No, lady, they don’t, because I live in a country where people actually have names like “dat.” Are you fucking serious? You work in an airport for crying out loud. She then took a pink highlighter and marked a big X on my boarding pass.
That big X meant that I had to go through a “special” security check. I found out later that they randomly select people who they think need extra screening. They made me go through this air blast chamber thing. For the whole time I’ve been waiting in line, I didn’t see a single person go through that machine. Yet there I was. I blame 9/11. I feel bad for anyone named Muhammad. The poor dude probably goes through so much shit every time he travels.
After the security check, we moved onto the customs lines. Most of the other kids were American so they went in the separate (and drastically shorter) line. By the time it was my turn, they had all moved ahead. I had my story prepared – I’m here to transfer to a plane to Cancun. I’m going to Cancun on a school trip. Our teacher is here somewhere. By the way, our chaperone teacher was a Mexican lady. I successfully answered all the questions asked (there were more than a few) and passed through.
By the time I met up with the rest of the group, I realized I was the last one. Wait, no. Not the last one. Where the hell is Mrs. Torres? I looked around. She was nowhere to be seen. Our chaperone had just POOF! disappeared. We were growing restless. The flight to Cancun was leaving soon. After like half an hour, Mrs. Torres finally showed up. She was apparently taken to the “back room” for questioning. I don’t recall why exactly. It was probably because her English was pretty terrible and she appeared nervous, couldn’t keep her story straight. Anyway, there was no time for explanations. We had a plane to catch.
We were just terribly unlucky at this point, because we realized that our gate was at another terminal – one that was on the opposite side of the airport for that matter. We were power walking at first, but eventually we were forced to break into full on sprinting. I even dropped my damn passport. Some thoughtful dude came running after me with it – he figured that I might need it. When I finally reached the gate, I saw the fast runners sitting on the floor, looking defeated. The gate had just closed. Mrs. Torres finally caught up with us a couple minutes later, gasping for breath, her face red and sweaty. What happen? What happen? We just missed it, Mrs. Torres. What are we going to do?
I hate traveling. Alright, nobody hates traveling. Nobody should, anyway. I just hate the PROCESS of traveling. I hate the waiting, the lines, the incompetent employees, the safety instructions, the never-changing chicken or fish option, the loud as hell flush in plane toilets… but most of all, I hate the fake smiles and apologies. I’m terribly sorry ma’am, but there are no other flights out to Cancun today. You’re going to have to spend a night in Dallas.
That sucked. Four people per crappy motel room. However, there was a bright side to all of this. We got to go to a REAL American mall. Well, I got to, anyway. To the other kids, it was just another run-of-the-mill mall. But for me – pheeewww! It was a unique experience. A huge box of a building, filled to the brim with everything you could possibly need… with more parking space than I’ve seen at ski resorts. And the candy store! My god, the candy store. Willy Wonka moment right there. I purchased my very first Hollister jeans. I had been dying to get a pair.
Bright and early next morning, we finally got on a plane to Cancun. Mexico was great… although Cancun was way too touristy and Americanized for my liking – there were too many McDonald’s and spring break woohoo teenagers distracting us from enjoying an authentic Mexican experience. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it now though – as long as there’s plenty of cheap liquor involved (: woohoo!