Adventures in preclearance


On Thanksgiving weekend I took a trip to Boston to see Regina Spektor. It was sweet.

As a result, I got to utilize the newest feature at the Halifax International Airport -- US Preclearance! Which means if you've got a direct flight to the US, you clear customs in Halifax and then it's like you're in America and you can travel freely down there. It saves you time, especially if you have connections in the US, and it also saves you withering glares from the surly guards in American airports (and Toronto for that matter).

Seeing as how it was only the second day of its existence, I arrived at the airport 2 hours early like they recommend, just to be safe. One of my biggest pet peeves is going to the airport too early. It's a waste of life and I know from experience that if you are in the building they will get you on the plane.

Anyhow my flight is at 6 and I get there at 4. I take the escaltor up -- this is the double set that has been spitting people into the baggage area all summer -- and at the top are three ticket counters, a series of velvet ropes, and two people.

I check in and am an instructed to hand my bag to the group of bored looking people at the bag x-ray.

"How's it been going up here?" I ask.

"Not bad," says an older guy.

"Couple glitches yesterday," says the younger guy.

"Well, that's bound to happen," I say.

They wave me to the next step without incident.

This is the personal x--ray machine. The guy holds out two bins for me -- one for my bag and the other, marked "boots," for my shoes. This surprises me but I know better than to say anything. I've only come up against the shoe thing in the US.

Everything clears. They wand me because they have nothing else to do.

More velvet ropes. More empty halls. It's dark, bomb-shelter like, in the actual Q & A area.

I've forgotten to fill out my customs card, forgetting that the steps come earlier in the trip now. The man waits patiently while I do it. In Newark they would've shot me in the face.

"Is this your bag?" the guy asks me, showing me a photo of my suitcase.

Of course it is. NOBODY ELSE IS HERE.

I confirm in the affirmative.

"How long are you going for?"

"I'm back Sunday," I say.

"Great," he says. "Have a good trip."

And that's it. I am technically in America.

It is 4:07.

In the FAQ for this new service one of the questions is something like "Where can I buy crap and eat?" and the answer is that the USPC area has many of the same amenities as the rest of the airport.

There's a Hudson News and a restaurant.

I look at books for awhile. The Hudson News girl is giving away salt water taffy. "Quiet up here," I say.

"It sure is," she replies.

A man buys an 18 dollar hat that says "Halifax Nova Scotia" on it.

Some guard-type guys enter from a frosted side door and one takes a dog around the room, sniffing all the garbage cans.

I take pictures of the fall colours through the giant windows. They face my home county of East Hants.

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