Monday, June 30, 2014

On austerity measures and airports

I spent 10 days in Italy and the only passport stamp I got was from Amsterdam.

Upon our arrival in Rome, the lone passport checker on duty in the Fiumicino airport waived us through without checking to see if we were who we claimed to be, let along stamping either of our passports. Apparently, passport checkers and inkpads are two of the austerity measures implemented during Italy's recent economic troubles.

When no one checked our passport before our flight to Amsterdam, I thought it might be because we were flying within the European Union. And a U.S. passport official in Detroit confirmed that the E.U. countries often aren't stamping for intra-union travel anymore. He also said that JFK airport might be a pre-approved airport that doesn't require checking after arrival; however, Ryan's parents and Kate didn't get checked either and they flew from a different airport.

That same U.S. passport official also failed to stamp my passport to show that I had returned to the states. I could be anywhere right now.

The only addition to my passport this year.

Amsterdam, where I spent two hours between flights and never left the airport, granted me a stamp. That airport takes security extremely seriously. Every single international gate has two of the full body scanners. Think about that, each gate has two.  I think the Louisville airport has four total. Besides the scanners, Amsterdam officials quizzed us on where we had been and what we had done during our visit, required us to have our bags x-rayed again and to surrender our water bottles before we could board our flight to Detroit.

This has prompted me to ask, what is the point of the passport anymore? Is there an electronic alternative that I can fill up to measure my progress to try to take over the world? Those passport stamps were a sign that I had been somewhere and grown as a result of the experience. I'm a little sad to see them lose their significance.

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