Thoughts from a boarding gate

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is about American tourists that winds people up.  Right now I’m sitting at my gate, waiting to board a flight to Chicago, and a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound American to my right is providing me with a check-list.

When I offered my seat to him and his wife he stared at me and declared drill sergeant-like with excessive volume: “No. I’m going to stay right here.”  His wife was a lot more polite but frankly she hasn’t stopped talking (in an excessive volume) for about ten minutes while he complains about the PA system being too loud, the line at the coffee shop being too long and the wheelchair being uncomfortable.  Ooh, and now he’s just asked his wife to get him some lime water.  Best of luck with that – still or sparkling completes our O2 range over here.

Then there’s the fifty-something, baseball cap-wearing men who walk with a college campus swagger that long stopped being apt.  In fact wearing a baseball cap three decades after your first beer is as appropriate as Betty White swanning around in a mini-skirt.

I’m thankful for the re-emergence of Betty White.  She has become the go-to punchline for any (playful) age-related barb.

From what I’ve seen it does seem to be some tourist-related persona rather than just a blanket American characteristic.  True to say that Americans in general can hardly be considered unassuming in their nature but give a middle aged former frat boy a passport, a plane ticket, and a massive camera that can photograph the moon’s surface and their base personality becomes amplified.

Of course many of these men probably did national service at some point too.  That would undoubtedly explain why they come across so regimental, loud and demanding.  It may also account for their seeming attempts to camouflage with the boarding gate walls by uniformly wearing beige.

Maybe I think they stand out because when I’m visiting other countries I don’t tend to walk around with a sense of entitlement and propensity to complain that they do.  But perhaps when I’m 55 and struggling to come to terms with the Rupee exchange rate or the Tokyo transport system, I’ll too be a complete and utter pain in the arse.

And – now I think about it – that PA system is freaking loud.

Update: As if things couldn’t  get more absurd, the wheelchair guy wore a fuchsia sleeping eye mask during the flight.


[Movie Review] The Final Destination

Starring: Bobby Campo, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella, Shantel VanSanten, Mykelti Williamson, Haley Webb, Nick Zano
Director: David R Ellis
Genre: Horror
Cert: 15
Released: 2009

Will someone make it stop?

Seemingly not.  2006’s “Final Destination 3” was to be the last in the horror series only for the advent of 3D to prompt director David R Ellis to bring it back.  The definite article in the title indicates that part four was again planned as the final outing but news has emerged that number five is on its way.

So what do we get for our money?  Much the same as we’ve seen on three previous occasions is the answer.  A group of young, attractive people are taking in some action at the local speedway arena when Nick (Campo) has a premonition of a fatal accident that will take the lives of him, his friends and many fellow spectators. Panicking, he convinces his friends that they need to get out and in the commotion a number of other people follow them.  The accident occurs and they survive while dozens die.  But – as is the central theme of the entire series – Death’s design is written in stone and the Grim Reaper (as such) will continue to pursue those who cheated death.

I had little praise for the first movie almost a decade ago but it’s fair to say that the second and third instalments were better without being memorable in any way (outside of a brilliant elevator-related death scene in number two).

And I have to say I’m undecided over “The Final Destination”.  I’m undecided as to whether the series has run out of steam and jaded me or if it’s just a dreadful film.

Perhaps the scriptwriters and director lost their focus because of the 3D angle (a gimmick that leads to some oddly-shot scenes) or perhaps they are just lazy.  There’s no attempt to introduce new plot devices or add any depth to the narrative that they explored insufficiently in the first movie.  And this might be slightly subjective but it does seem that the gore quotient has been upped significantly in this episode; usually an indicator that fresh ideas are thin on the ground.

I have no idea whether the cast have any talent or not as they ham it up within the limited boundaries of their stereotypical characters.  It’s a very predictable non-event and, above all, extremely boring.

Passing the American Entrance Exam


Every time you enter America as a non-immigrant you have to make a series of declarations about your background and your physical and mental well-being so the state feel assured that you are an asset to them and not a mad man of some sort.

Now some of these questions make sense such as whether or not you have TB, or a mental or physical disorder that might endanger others (I presume that if you do then you’re not likely to be allowed in.  Sure, in some cases you might be able to disguise the condition but I suppose if you’re, say, Wolverine then you’d probably be busted once you accidentally claw the lippy immigration officer to death.).

But some of the questions they ask are just downright weird.

Have you, while serving as a government official, been responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom?

So we will tolerate mild, moderate or even severe violations of religious freedom.  But if they were particularly severe then we, as Americans, would take quite a dim view of that.

Have you attended a public elementary school on student (F) status or a public secondary school after November 30, 1996 without reimbursing the school?

What?  Isn’t that a bit specific?  No interest in whether or not I owe 50k on my Amex card or have failed to pay a mobile phone bill for a year.  No, we want to know if you reneged on paying school fees after that well-known ‘School Fee Amnesty’ of November 30th, 1996.  And does this include library dues?  Because I’m pretty sure I owe about £2.50 in late fees for an economics audio book read by Chris Farley?

Do you belong to a clan or a tribe?

Yes, I do. I live in a jungle, have no shoes, kill fish with spears, and can afford a transatlantic return flight to the United States.

Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?

I assume they are asking me whether or not I am a pimp or a prostitute – not whether I’ve spent fifty quid in De Wallen when trying to impress the lads on a stag weekend?  If that was the case then none of us would get in.

And if you did have nefarious plans up your sleeve you’d be a weak link in your terrorist cell if you answered “yes” to questions like “Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities” or “do you intend to provide financial support to terrorists”.