Excuse me, sir. Despite your impeccable manners and entirely valid documents, you have been selected for additional questioning regarding your intentions for traveling to the USA. Please make your way to the official misery area.
I have processed through enough American airports now to understand that you will be treated, with almost unwavering consistency, like shit. The US border is a curious contradiction from the land that elevated customer service to something exquisite - as though they have purposefully crafted a kind of sorcerous mirror image to barricade the promised land within, patrolled by humourless goblins that all seem to have attended the same humourless goblin finishing school.
A few dozen weary faces that represent a fairly thorough cross-section of humanity take their turn. Most are eventually granted their documents accompanied with a snippy dismissal, but one or two are presented with very serious expressions, some government muscle and the gloomy prospect of some unfathomably grim detention. Mostly we wait.
Please remain seated on this wooden bench for several hours until you miss your connecting flight. One of our more reasonable minions will be along eventually to ask you no questions at all and then send you on your way.
Then it is all gone and I am in the Chicago night watching a huge yellow fire truck flash and honk and scream slowly past. Modern technology is still close enough to magic for me that even after the extra faff which gobbled up many hours I really needed to use for important sleeping, I find it amazing that I can get out of bed on one side of the globe and end the same day on the other. A small boy lost, out in the world.
Then America plays its other hand. After midnight, two airline employees - with no kind of skin in the game - open up their office, tend to our logistical wounds and upgrade us for the following day. Another equally flummoxed customs survivor and I are astounded when the desk supervisor first arranges the hotel and then drives us down there his own self. Bravo.