The Slow Way Into America

The flight from Tokyo to JFK was nicely uneventful. I continued to luxuriate in my enormous blanket and pillow. On this second flight I even got one of the small economy-sized pillows as well, as if they were looking to bolster my schadenfreude. I slept for the first six hours of the flight, read a disappointing Marukami novel on my Kindle, watched a documentary about a very silly trail race and another about sugar, and waited to arrive in New York.

The last time I came through JFK, I remember it being a smooth experience, although I had been vomiting constantly for the three hours leading up to my arrival, so perhaps my perception was off. This time was a much more frustrating experience: over an hour to clear Immigration. They had a vaguely chaotic queue that weaved around through a huge hall, and lots of places for people to shout in English at people newly arrived from Foreignland. (That seems to be one thing that people in US airports love more than anything else: shouting at very small, very old people who clearly don’t understand English.)

This time round, you queued for an hour to get to an automated passport machine, which then printed a receipt, which you joined another queue for a man to look at your passport, and then after that, you fetched your luggage and then joined another queue for another man to look at your passport. Sometimes, the US fills like it may be afflicted by a Soviet-style campaign for full employment.

I got my bag, and was walking to the taxi stand when a man came up to me asking if I wanted a taxi. I admired his chutzpah, because he accosted me right by a sign warning against taxi touts. Still, remembering an interminable queue the last time I was here, I followed him to the car park, where he told me it would be $125 and two hours to get to Manhattan. To make it look official, he had a little booklet printed up with prices; it was about the size of a cheap paperback novel, and looked about twenty years old, so perhaps at least the scammers aren’t keeping up with inflation.

I told him the fixed fare for a taxi was about $55, he said it would be $89 plus tolls in a real taxi, and then I declined his services and walked back to the taxi rank. He didn’t seem that upset; I can only assume he has a healthy stream of marks arriving to prey on.

There was hardly any queue for a real taxi ($52 + tolls) so off I went, and here I am now, sat in ghastly traffic, wondering again why there isn’t a fast train into town…

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