Sunday, 13 October 2013

The USA government shutdown: a foreign tourist's view

In the second week of our recent USA trip, the Government shut down. Difficult to notice the difference, really, save on one occasion when turning up at a minor National Monument (Ocmulgee) near Macon, Georgia and finding it barred by a solid locked gate. Lucky not to have been pursuing a Parks based trip. Still, with many of the main parks having lodges right in the centre, there would not have been a problem gaining access to them for prebooked accommodation…

Or so I thought. If the contents of these two links about Yellowstone are to be believed, from the Eagle Tribune and the Daily Caller, the Park Service not only barred out anyone with prearranged reservations, but also sought to stop anyone already in the Park from “recreating” – not only preventing a group of seniors from taking pictures of a bison herd, but also putting barricades round Old Faithful and locking the group in the hotel until they could be escorted out. With all due allowance for exaggeration and the existence of two sides to the story, there is a certain ring of truth in the thought that petty officialdom chose box ticking compliance and control freakery rather than humanity and common sense.

Which reminds me of the experience in entering the country at Washington Dulles airport. With touchdown scheduled for 14.30, a connecting flight at 16.55 ought to have posed no problems after the international flight landed on time. Think again. After the transfer from gate to arrivals hall, a winding queue ten rows deep that penned non-US arrivals in like cattle. Movement through the queue at a snail’s pace, with only the decency of fellow passengers to thank for allowing us through to the immigration desks. In marked contrast with three airport officials whose attitude to the threat of missing the connecting flight was bovine indifference at best and sadistic obstruction at worst. Thankfully we made it, but only just.

It pains me to say this as a regular holiday visitor to the USA, but what happened on that day would have shamed a third world dictatorship. President Obama, this is no way to treat people who have chosen to visit your country and to boost your economy by spending their time and money there.

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