Friday, July 17, 2009

I am ready for my close-up, Mr. de Mille

I think I have it now! The Iris scan has now worked three consecutive times for me when I have entered Heathrow Airport Immigration and Passport Control, so I guess “my” kinks in the system have now been resolved.

Let me explain. In late 2008, I finally took the extra 15 minutes required at Heathrow Airport to complete the paperwork for the retinal eye security scan. After giving the UK Immigration authorities every known conceivable shred of information on myself and putting both “eyes on file with big brother”, I thought I was good to go.

Here is how the process works: Upon return to the UK (which will nearly always be Heathrow Airport for me), rather than waiting in the same HUGE long line for immigration and passport control, I can easily reduce the queuing time from 45 minutes to about 5-7 minutes TOPS. Previously, the immigration line has consisted of 500+ people from either Indian Airlines, South Africa Airways, or any flying cattle car from Russia (which always seems to be the case when I am coming through immigration), With this handy-dandy tool, I should simply proceed to a specially designated line, enter a little booth, and have my retinas scanned….once the machine yes, “Yes, this is her!”, the doors of the booth open and I have officially cleared immigration and passport control.

Of course, those kinks that I mentioned earlier in the post only seemed to apply to me. Each time the Budman entered, he lined up his eyes on the little mirror in the booth on the first attempt and WHAM!, he’s cleared. For the Hachie Gal, I would enter the booth and get up to three chances to correctly line up my eyes for scanning. I could always tell I was in trouble when the robotic voice would pause for 10 seconds, and then the flurry of directions would be dictated. “Please move a little to the left”, “Please move closer”, “Please step back”….over and over. After three attempts you are booted back out of the booth the way you entered. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. So for the first 5 months, this thing NEVER worked for me.

If the fact you failed to pass the iris scan isn’t embarrassing enough (akin to the multiple drivers test taken), the glaring stares of the people waiting behind you in line will certainly mortify you. These fellow travelers are also trying to get through immigration in the same 5-7 minutes timeframe you are and really aren’t taking kindly to waiting on the loser ahead of them who can’t make the iris scan work. The end result: you hang your head in shame and proceed to the immigration line with the rest of the world, including the Indian Airlines, South Africa Airways, and the Russian cattle car passengers. Excellent!

Question: So what is a girl to do? Answer: A return trip to the Iris scan office to find out “What gives?”. I will cut to the chase by reporting that after following this course of action, the UK Immigration and Passport Control promptly reported after 30 minutes of “who knows what kind” of troubleshooting, the “There are no problems – it should work fine”. Yea, right! Here is where the ever valiant Budman swings into action and politely inquires, “Can you please re-take her photo? Maybe a new photo would help.” Response from Immigration: “Good idea. She does have little beady eyes.” Thanks.

Fast forward to the last three trips taken and yes, that new picture must have done the trick as I cruised through Iris scan with no issue. Either that, or it was the fact (and here is the Sunset Boulevard reference connection) that once I exited the plane, almost immediately I resembled Norma Desmond. I must be practicing the “eyes wide open” face so intently as I pass through the jetbridge, the corridors of Heathrow, leading up to the iris scan booth that all that comes to mind is “I am ready for my close-up now, Mr. de Mille!”.


You are laughing but three times lucky.

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