Where are we?
Is this the dark underbelly of the city? Is this crowd miles below the city surface in some dingy underground tunnel?
Welcome to LAX. Los Angeles International Airport, the gateway to the American west coast. This is what I saw after 20 hours travel at baggage claim earlier this month. If this was my first time to Los Angeles, or worse yet, America, this would be my very first impression of America. How absolutely horrid! Global cities around the world, like Dubai, Singapore, Amsterdam, Doha, Hong Kong are competing to build the most efficient, luxurious and state of the art airport terminals rich with every amenity and comfort. Airports are not only big business, they are also the gateways to the city if not the country or the region. They are the very first impression, for ever visitor.
The U.S now requires visitors from friendly countries like New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg and Switzerland the added hassle of applying for visas-wavers to enter the U.S. Then once you disembark in the U.S., more often than not, you are confronted by extremely unfriendly immigration officers. I appreciate that their job is a very important one but why do they have to be so rude? On my most recent travel back from England, the immigration officer that attended to me and my husband, did not smile, do not even look at us, barely grunted two words. (I should add that this was at Newark airport but I have had similar experiences in LAX). I haven't even addressed the excruciating long lines, where you are shoved around like cattle, before you even see an immigration officer.
Now I know that LAX has been undergoing some intensive renovations. However, it has been under construction since I moved to this city four and a half years ago and I have yet to see any improvement. California, much like the rest of the country is teetering on bankruptcy. Tourism has historically brought California a large bulk of its revenue. Can we really afford to chase away well intentioned tourists?
I have lived in America for about eighteen and a half years now. Many of the people I have met here and befriended are extraordinarily warm, giving, generous and welcoming Americans. However, if all you knew of America was experienced in the airport, you would never know that.