Wednesday, August 06, 2008

British women must hate me...

I'm sure it's a coincidence, but in the last two weeks of international travel the two rudest people I've met have been British women. First was the hotel clerk in Belize and in a close second the woman at passport control yesterday at Heathrow.

It started out normally enough. She asked me where I was headed. Edinburgh. Purpose? The festival. How long would I be staying there? 10 days.

This was all perfectly curt and proper. Then she asked for my return ticket.

"I don't have it printed out yet."

"Why not?"

"It's an electronic ticket," I say, thinking that would explain it. It doesn't. I add, "I have the flight number and date, do you want that?"

"You don't have anything printed out?"

"It's an electronic ticket," I restate. It's all I can muster to explain my lack of a printout. Weren't electronic tickets created specifically to eliminate the need to have a piece of paper in your hand?

She stares.

"No one told me I needed to print out my return ticket."

"No one should have to tell you, it's common sense."

Common sense? To print out a boarding card for a flight ten days from now? Not buying it.

"I've never had to print out a return ticket before."

"Well you're traveling internationally and it's common sense."

There's that common sense argument again.

I counter with, "I just went to Belize last week and I didn't need to have my return ticket printed out." Which is in fact true, and last time I checked U.S. to Belize is 'international.'

"You're in the U.K." she says emphatically.


See what happens? You treat me like I'm stupid and you get sarcasm.

Neither one of us says anything for a moment.

Finally she asks, "do you have the information on where you'll be staying?"

"Yes, a hotel in Edinburgh. I have the confirmation number."

I dig into my bag and pull out my calendar. I open it up and look at today's date where I've written down my hotel info.

"You just have it written down?"


"You don't have anything printed?"
Again with the printing! How is something I print out at home better than a confirmation number I have written down? Is my HP inkjet printer now capable of printing official international documents? (mental note, print up some Swiss bonds when I get home).

"Well, I didn't know and I don't have a ticket printed so where can we go from here?"

"There's no where to go, I have nothing to show how long you're going to be staying or when you'll be leaving."

Believe me, I won't stay in this country any longer than I have to if this is an example of British charm. At this point I think I may actually be denied entry into the U.K.

"Is there internet service here so I can go online and get what you need?"

"There is but it's in the terminal."

"How else could get you the documentation you want, maybe I could go to the American Airlines counter and have them print out my return itinerary?"

She stammers at my offers to resolve the situation, which makes me think this is more about making me feel uncomfortable than enforcing a strict You Must Hve Printouts rule.

She shakes her head and stamps my passport.

"Thank you," I say. But, still aggravated by the experience I add, "if it's my first time traveling in the U.K. then it's not common sense to know what you need here."

"That's a matter of opinion," she says haughtily.

"Well, thank you for sharing your opinion," I say mostly to myself as I pick up my bags.

"Your most welcome" she throws back at me as I zig-zag through the maze of stanchions to the next stop in the gauntlet of international travel, all of which were a lot easier than her.

Perhaps she radioed ahead, "stupid American coming through. He doesn't have anything printed out! Watch it! "

At least she didn't ask about the 3 kilos of hash I had stashed in my suitcase.


At 9:54 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Bleh that's lame. When I went to the UK in May I didn't experience anyone quite as rude at Heathrow, but I did feel like I was being interviewed like my future existence depended on it. And I didn't have my return ticket printed out.

I experienced British rudeness in Stratford, where a group of teenagers started making fun of American accents, while I waited in line with to go see a play.

Have fun in Edinburgh! The coolest thing I saw when I was there was the Frankenstein Pub. I didn't get a chance to go in, but it was in an old church and it looked pretty sweet.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger soo said...

awww that's awful! eeeeeh, I hope you don't think we're all like that! I'm English and I'm lovely. Honest. haha.
You know, Southerners are known for being a bit rude to everyone. Here, the further North you get, the nicer the people get. So, erm.. many apologies for the snotty airport woman. I hope you have better experiences over here to make up for it :) Good luck in Edinburgh, that's a really fantastic place. Don't forget to check out Arthur's Seat while you're there.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Robin said...

Don't take it personally, The airports here are gay. Don't mind the only armed officers in the entire country lining the walls with powerful submachine guns.

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Mark Brock said...

Hey Rob,

Even I get treated like a hostile when I return to the UK from international flights - and I was born and live here!

British airports suck!!!

Don't take it personally just cos some woman has a power complex!

I wish I'd known sooner about you coming to the UK. I would have taken the long trip from Wales to Scotland just to see you live.

If that woman hasn't put you off the UK for life you've got to come to Cardiff in Wales to do a set some time!

At 3:57 PM, Blogger lizsaskia said...

Heya Rob

Sorry to hear you had such a crappy experience of British women!

If you ever bring your gorgeous self back to England I would be more than happy to take you out and prove we're not all like that! ;)

Liz x


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