by Escutcheon Blot
Having recently been bee-bopping around the globe(or at least to four different countries), I have had an opportunity to view customs and immigration from several different angles. The Czechs were friendly and laid-back. Of course, we were leaving. They may well have simply been happy to see us go. The Germans seem always to be fairly low-intensity, and all of them(although I don't need this service anymore) appear to be able to speak fluent English. The Poles are somewhat intimidating, and speak only limited English and German(this was the German-Polish border). The Poles did however, as far as I could tell, all speak their own language .
This is, sadly, not always the case at the Port Authority Customs and Immigration Brouhaha (PACIB) at JFK. There are, to start with, several people-pushers who, as I have noticed on several separate occasions, cannot speak English. Oh they try, but it comes out as a garbled pidgin, with heaping doses of whatever language it is they do in fact speak. I had to inform one diminutive blonde lady(who appeared to be of Nordic extraction--lest any of you think this is racially motivated) what the English for fifteen and sixteen where...Respectively, of course.
Then the immigration officers themselves are, almost to a person, rude, arrogant, overbearing, and arrantly unprofessional. I have heard from European friends of several different countries, all of them allies in our much-hyped (and make no mistake--existentially important) War on Terror, that they are even worse--to the point of being abusive--over on the non-citizens' side of the entry hall. I would like to request that Homeland Security make sure all employees at points of entry at least speak English. I have no expectation of any other language being learned. Indeed, there is no other language which approaches the universality of English. And politeness is probably a lost art anyway, although these customs officers should at least familiarize themselves with the names of our allies, and treat their citizens accordingly. I confidently expect this request to be profoundly ignored.
Secondly, I have noted over the summer, having changed to a gym with a large proportion of its clientele of Turkish--and presumably Muslim--persuasion, that the muscle-lads of the Near East, when showering down after a work-out, or relaxing their muscles in the sauna or steam bath, are usually clothed in underwear or a bathing suit(both of which are forbidden articles in German saunas and steam baths--I don't quite know why).
At first I put this down to a charming(ish) flashback to 7th grade gym class, until I was reminded of something I think I once knew anyway: namely, no Muslim man, from a fundamentalist viewpoint, may show anyone his business. Nor, of course, may a Muslim woman...Although I think most everyone had already guessed that.
In one blindingly brilliant(and somewhat prurient) stroke, I saw the answer both to airborne terrorism and in-flight boredom. Simply forbid clothing on board all flights, domestic and international. While this may cause some visual discomfort at first (a disappointingly small portion of our population resembles members of the Swedish Ski Team), it would certainly put the kibosh on Islamist Terrorism in the Air. And perhaps the perpetual public exposure would get some more people onto sensible dietary paths--not to preach. And the damned planes would have to be kept a little warmer over the North Atlantic.
Yours, tanned, rested, and ready...if a bit irked,