When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

Los Angeles to Mexico City to Oaxaca

imageOur first challenge after landing in LA at 9:00 was to get from Terminal 5 to Terminal 2 and having dinner during our two-hour lay over. After getting directions, we boarded an empty shuttle under the blue sign. We meandered through the maze of LAX, going from one terminal to another, adding passengers at each stop. Finally we squeezed our way off the shuttle at Terminal 2, which appeared dedicated to Aeromexico. Already we had the feeling of being in another country.

Security at LAX is more stringent than at PDX, and both Robin and I got frisked. At PDX we walked through a standard metal detector. LAX offered us the body scanner. You walk into the booth, stop and make a 90 degree turn, place your feet on the yellow footprints, touch your hands together over your head, and hold the pose for at least three seconds. Robin went through first. A TSA agent pulled aside. Another one got me.

“You have an anomaly in your groin area,” he said to me. I told him it was a money belt. He told me I had to take it off. He offered a private area but said I’d have to leave my other things behind—carry on, wallet, phone, iPad, passport, shoes. I untucked my shirt and pulled off the belt. He went through it and gave it back. He said he had to frisk me, presumably to assure himself I had no other anomalies.

For Robin, instead of putting her passport back in the bag she kept it in, she put it in her back pocket. Instant anomaly, according to the scanner.

The four-hour flight to Mexico City was inconsequential but for two things. First, I left my hat aboard. It was a favorite but not irreplaceable. The other just added to the confusion of going through the entry process of immigration and customs.

Sometime during the flight to Mexico City, the attendant handed out some forms. Robin and I were trying to sleep (we didn’t) so neither of us were paying attention when the attendant passed us by.

Once off the plane we learned we had to go through immigration. We ended up in a massive room with a couple hundred other people ahead of us in another of those long snaking lines. At the other end of the room were six or eight circular kiosks, spaced at random. Each had an  agent sitting at a desk inside the kiosk. I noticed that many of the people in front of us, and those coming in behind, had some sort of form in hand along with a passport. I asked an English-speaking person where she got hers. “On the plane,” she said.

Other people, too, were at various counters, filling out forms. I scouted around and found what we needed and got back into line with Robin. It’s difficult to fill out a form while you’re shuffling along with baggage. Eventually we got through immigration with our visas stamped.

Next was customs, with another form. We had to pick up our checked suitcase, which along with our carry-ons, was opened and searched. That done, the suitcase went back to baggage, and we hustled to the gate. When our flight was called, we walked through the door, expecting, as with all other flights, to board a plane. We didn’t. Instead, we boarded a shuttle bus that sat idling at the curb. The bus filled with people and with fumes. After fifteen or so minutes we made it to our plane, parked well away from the terminal.

The sunrise flight to Oaxaca was beautiful, with mucho mountains, including an active volcano. The flight was quick, about half as long as the itinerary said it would be. Around 7:30 a.m. we deplaned onto the the pavement, stepping down an iron stairway. It was cool and partly cloudy. I missed my hat.

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