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~jlm

4-Jul-2022

Wacky security questions

Filed under: travel — jlm @ 13:18

While I privately celebrate Independence Day, let me reminisce on a small, but odd, part of my recent trip to the mother country we independenced from. For a round-trip international flight, you’re questioned by security agents four times: by the TSA before leaving the country, by ICE upon your return, and by their equivalents in the foreign country upon arrival and departure there. The TSA screening was very routine, but the British immigration/customs officer had this weird thing where he’d repeat all my answers back with a really skeptical tone.

“Where are you going from here?”
“I’ll be staying here in London for the next five days.”
“You’re lodging in London?”
“Yes.”
“Why are you coming here?”
“Primarily to visit my family.”
“You’re visiting family, who live in London?”
“Yep.”
“And when are you leaving?”
“I fly back home on July 1st.”
“You’re flying back to the US on the 1st of July?”
“Yup.”
“And how are you getting to London?”
“I bought a ticket for a National Express bus.” [The “Tube” was shut down due to a workers strike.]
“You’re taking a National Express bus to London?”
“Uh huh.”
[Dropping the skeptical act] “Very good, welcome to the UK.”

Maybe the idea is somebody fabricating their answers will feel a need to elaborate instead of simply confirming? Whatever. The odder bit was the trip back, where each security officer asked me a strange question.

“Where is your journey starting from?”
“Uh, what?”
“Where is your flight leaving?”
[Borrowing the tone of his countryman] “You want to know the airport my flight departs from?”
“Yes.”
“From this airport, London Heathrow.”
“Very good.”

And then, from ICE:

“What’s in London?”
“Uh, what?”
“You said you flew in from London, what’s there?”
“Well, there are a lot of things in London: Parliament, and a stretch of the River Thames, and several bridges over the river, and millions of people, one of whom is a first cousin, and his wife, and —” [at this point, the agent cuts me off, and I don’t even get a “very good”. I guess that’s a British thing.]

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