Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Red, White and Blue - Part 2

So, I was finally on the flight to Washington D.C. from Frankfurt. I was getting goose bumps all through the flight about the fate which awaits me at the airport. I shared my anxiety with my boss and he joked that in case things happen as I was expecting, then he will take the taxi to the hotel and I can come later. It can take pretty long sometimes with the screenings, he said. His joke did not helped at all and finally I was at the D.C. airport. I could see long lines at the security check. People were being asked to even remove their shoes. Usually, that hardly happens at European airports. After getting through the regular patting, I was quite happy that all is well. But then I saw the immigration check. People were getting selected randomly for additional screening. I saw a family of four, father, mother, two kids around 5-6 years of age, being asked to get out of the line for special screening. I even saw an elderly couple being asked to step out of the line. I gave up my hopes after seeing that. How can a weird looking brown guy score over that? Still, trying to convince myself how bad it can be, I went ahead and stood in front of a 7 foot tall officer. He asked me if this was my first trip. I said, yes. He asked me if I was here for a business trip. I said, yes. He then raised his hands and stamped my passport. Expecting a denial of entry, I thought it is time to take back a flight back to where I came from. But all I heard was, Welcome to Washington, Mr. XYZ. Have a nice stay. He said it with a fake smile. He handed over my passport and said, Next! I was puzzled and still not convinced that I was through. What?? Just two questions?? No special screening?? No trouble making?? That quick?? I could not believe my luck and so did my boss standing at the other end. Unfortunately, we will have to take the same taxi, he joked. Unbelievable, I said to him still trying to recover from the fact that I am standing freely on a place which I dreaded the most. Congratulations to me!

As I was slowly getting back to my senses, I observed the place a bit old and dirty comparing it to my city in Germany. My next comparison was cars. Cars with huge hoods. I was surprised that I never noticed it in their movies but the American cars were really huge particularly at the hood. So much for engine design, I said to myself. Moreover in a country where there is speed limits on their highways, what use are those huge engines. It felt nice to think of going without speed limits on the Autobahn in Germany, where I live. We went to our hotel, which was a normal, nothing-fancy-about-it hotel but still I found it to be HUGE comparing it to hotel rooms in Europe. It had 2 TVs, one for the bedroom and one for the lounge. Wowww, I said, no wonder everyone wants to get into US. Everything was SUPER SIZE.

We had planned to reach the States on a weekend as my boss wanted to do some shopping. Now, I must tell you that amongst few things I hate to do, one of them is shopping. I don’t usually have patience to go through it. Moreover, I buy only when I need. But I did not mind to join him for shopping. So, as planned we took our already book rental car and went to an Outlet Center the next day which had every known brand that I could think of. I think it was one of the most memorable days of my life. Never in my life had I shopped to that extent. I simply could not control myself. Everything was so insanely cheap and after calculating the currency exchange from dollars to euros, it came out even cheaper. I shopped like crazy and the only thing which tried to put brakes on me was the weight limit on my flight back to Germany. My boss knew exactly what he had planned and so he had already brought less stuff with him from home. I could not shop as much as him but for my standards it was the biggest purchase ever in my life on a single day, not just for me but also for my near and dear ones. I had already started loving the US of A. I promised myself that the next time I come here; I will only bring a small hand luggage with one pair of extra clothes. I will even buy a new suitcase here and then stuff it with the maximum limit allowed to carry back. A photo of the mad shopping day:

The complete week we were busy with work and hardly got time to see D.C. Since it was November and the days were short, whatever we saw was in the evening, in dark. It was pretty windy in the evenings making it even more cold. What struck me while walking along the streets of Washington when we used to go out of dinner was the poverty. There were many homeless poor people that I could not believe myself. I even saw a van from a charity stopping over to give free food to those poor people. It was odd for me since I never saw so many people sleeping on streets in Germany or even other countries in Europe. Yes, there is poverty in Europe but not as many people sleep on streets. I was surprised that a country which boast of being the superpower and one of the most advanced places could not even take care of its own people? What difference there is there then between the US and India in this respect?

Contemplating on those thoughts, not being able to understand the world I live in and looking for a nice place to eat, I accidentally discovered a great eating place, Chipotle. 

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