Check-in at Stuttgart proceeded without incident, with the exception of the custom officials who panicked over a cylindrical object which was detected by their equipment.
"Is this your bag, Sirrrrr?", the official purred.
"Why, yes it is." I replied.
"There is a cylinder...ah...a small 'pip' in the front of your bag, Sirrrrr!" she vouchsafed.
After some scrummaging in the backpack, I withdrew a small torch, and advised the official of the suspect objects' purpose.
"What is it?" exclaimed the official.
"It is a flashlight; a torch." I confirmed.
After giving the suspect object a test run, the official was convinced it was nothing sinister. I said; she said - and the world was as one. Hence, we were allowed to continue our journey with destiny.
One has to be excused for assuming the American government and administration needs an enemy, as a vampire needs blood - well, that may sound somewhat harsh? However, one has to experience first hand, the delights of American passenger scrutiny. As digestion starts in the mouth, Customs scrutiny commences its intense process at the passenger check-in.
Finally, we have boarded our aircraft (Delta Airways) for a ten hour flight to Atlanta, Georgia, whereby we change flights for a further two/three our journey onto Newark, New Jersey, and Michael and New York.
The journey to Atlanta was a tedious and cramped affair, punctuated by the fidgeting; snoring; farting; incessant declining and elevating of their seat backs from the three passengers in front of us. Sleep would not avail itself as easily as it had in our previous transfers. However, we have some respite vide the passenger sitting next to me. This cove speaks Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Spanish and a smattering of Greek but not English. So, communication is achieved through semaphore, hand signals, exchange of roasted peanuts, all punctuated by swear words in Greek! Albeit, we arrive one and a half hours early!
Atlanta - at last - and now, let the games begin!
The first impression any visitor would receive of America, after the entry indoctrination, is one of a country, garrisoned, with its ordinances aimed at the world and towards itself.
The process for entry is easy - "One, Two, Three" as extolled by the smiling images from the multitude of monitors, littering the process area, advising nationals and visitors alike. No one is spared.
Finding one's way from the aircraft to the processing area is a lesson in navigation and endurance - and endurance is indeed the keyword. You enter an auditorium which is a Saragossa Sea for all arrivals, whereby the search for the appropriate queue is aided by an appropriate ratio of officials.
"Nationals" to the left; "Visitors" to the right....and we will ask the questions!
Passengers are marshaled towards their respective areas, then queue again to be interviewed and processed by an official. Questions asked, fingerprints and photographs taken, passports verified and stamped - "Next!" Two hours and five minutes later - spasm number 2, and which smells like the number on the door
Ah, dear reader, there's more..... shit!
Baggage collection; a game of musical carousels? Our luggage can be located at carousel 7 - no, this is for the Houston arrivals. Search for an employee - ah, would they know where luggage from flight DL117 might be? Oh, try carousel 4.... why not. No, this is luggage for the Paris flight. Find another handler - do they know which carousel would have flight DL117? Rustling of manifest - riiiight, carousel 11. Touch down! A frantic race towards spasm number 3!
The time in credit, made with the early arrival, is exhausted through this progressive perceptual leap. We hurry with our wayward luggage towards the baggage screening area. Passengers hurriedly place luggage on conveyors, which is hoped will survive the screening and coincide with their respective flights.
The endurance race is almost at an end.
Final stage, exit and transfers.... whew! Exhibit passports, exchange pleasantries and expulsion into the bustling pedestrian traffic by way of this purgative of paranoia and gastroenteritis. It's now 17:47.
We hasten towards boarding gate B08 to catch our flight scheduled at 18:35. But wait.... there's.... more? Due to congestion with air traffic over New York, our flight has been delayed until 19:30. Sit, unwind, relax, then off to find liquid and solid sustenance. Clock ticking and we're both tired, and then a further update.... our flight has been delayed again until 19:45.
Our flight is finally called; we board and find our seats. Taxi towards the run-up area, all clear and take-off! We finally land at Newark airport at 21:43, embarkation is a simplified process. We are met and heartily greeted by Maria's brother, Michael, who escorts us back to his apartment located near the corner of 63rd Street and 2nd Avenue, New York City! Let the fun begin!