It’s 10.30am, or 7am, or 4.30pm. I don’t know, I can’t remember.
I’ve just awakened from a slumber on board NZ2, an Air New Zealand 747 on route to Los Angeles, and my flight is about to land.
It was the late night flight, and the plane is mostly empty. Passengers are leisurely sprawled over entire rows. I’ve spent the past eight hours sleeping better than during a night out camping.
As we exit the aircraft, I chat to a fellow passenger. It transpires that we have the same connecting flight through to Las Vegas to attend two very different IT conferences.
“So do you work for Microsoft?” he asks me, as I tell him I’m heading to Las Vegas for VSLive.
“No”, I reply, “but my employer is Microsoft certified.”
“Oh”, he says. “So, what did you make of the in-flight entertainment system crashing then?”
“Three times, by my count”, I add. “I even took a photo”.
“It was more than that”, he said.
“And it took over than 20 minutes to reboot. That’s Windows CE for you.”
“Yeah”, he said. “They should be running Linux.”
“Hm”, I say avoiding comment.
We head out into the customs processing area. Our flight was barely 20% full. We don’t need to queue. I start eyeing my fellow passengers, and see a few familiar faces. They’re all mostly male, in their mid twenties to early thirties, wearing either jeans or track pants, and a t-shirt, or embroidered polo shirt. They’re also carrying laptop bags. I’m willing to bet I’ll be seeing them on my connecting flight.
We pass the first stage of processing, and then it’s off to customs. I explain to the nice official in the intimidating grey/brown uniform that I have declared three pieces of fruit – a couple of Australian mandarins and an NZ apple.
Before I left Auckland, I brought some fruit to augment my airline meal. I had almost been tempted to buy the much juicier-looking Californian mandarins. But the food-mile paradox of bringing imported Californian mandarins back to California didn’t parse in my head. I opted for the less tasty-looking Australian variety.
The customs official tells me that this is fine in the most cheerful of manner.
But then a group of them start talking. They tell me to follow the yellow line, while all my fellow passengers are directed towards the red line.
I’ve been singled out.
Maybe it was because I’m the only female travelling alone? Maybe it’s because I had the vegan meal on the flight?
They take great interest in x-raying my gear. This can’t be good.
The beagle dog turns up. Fortunately it seems more interested in my mandarins that anything in my backpack.
They take my mandarins and apple away for investigation. I again explain they’re Australian mandarins and an NZ apple. They again assure me this is fine, and instruct me to walk round the front where I should wait to talk to some other official.
There is more animated discussion but I can’t make it out. And I’m still the only one who has been singled out.
In their processing area they have a large bin for discarding quarantined food, and I sadly expect them to throw my fruit into it.
But no, the homeland/security/TSA/whatever official walks straight past the bin and places my fruit on a desk, which contains various other items that look like the personal belongings of the staff.
Finally, I hear one of them say “just let her go already”.
They let me go without further explanation. I continue me on my way.
Minus my fruit.
They remain on the TSA agent’s lunch table.
Maybe the Australian mandarins really are better than their local Californian variety?