The united states of total paranoia


Blackleaf
#1
Opinion - Jeremy Clarkson

The Sunday Times July 02, 2006


The united states of total paranoia
Jeremy Clarkson



I know Britain is full of incompetent water board officials and stabbed Glaswegians but even so I fell on my knees this morning and kissed the ground, because I’ve just spent three weeks trying to work in America.

It’s known as the land of the free and I’m sure it is if you get up in the morning, go to work in a petrol station, eat nothing but double-egg burgers — with cheese — and take your children to little league. But if you step outside the loop, if you try to do something a bit zany, you will find that you’re in a police state.

We begin at Los Angeles airport in front of an immigration official who, like all his colleagues, was selected for having no grace, no manners, no humour, no humanity and the sort of IQ normally found in farmyard animals. He scanned my form and noted there was no street number for the hotel at which I was staying.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said. “Ooh, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m afraid I don’t have one.”

This didn’t seem to have any effect. “I’m going to need a number,” he said again, and then again, and then again. Each time I shrugged and stammered, terrified that I might be sent to the back of the queue or worse, into the little room with the men in Marigolds. But I simply didn’t have an answer.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said again, giving the distinct impression that he was an autobank, and that this was a conversation he was prepared to endure until one of us died. So with a great deal of bravery I decided to give him one. And the number I chose was 2,649,347.

This, it turned out, was fine. He’d been told by his superiors to get a number. I’d given him a number. His job was done and so, just an hour or so later, I was on the streets of Los Angeles doing a piece to camera.

Except, of course, I wasn’t. Technically you need a permit to film on every street in pretty well every corner of the world. But the only countries where this rule is enforced are Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea and the United States of America.

So, seconds after breaking out the tripod, a policeman pulled up and demanded that we show him our permit. We had one that covered the city of Los Angeles . . . except the bit where we were. So we were moved on.

The next day I was moved on in Las Vegas too because the permit I had didn’t cover the part of the pavement I was standing on. Eight inches away was fine.

You need a permit to do everything in America. You even need a passport to buy a drink (and you need to be 21, unlike in Britain where you just have to be 18 ). But interestingly you DON'T need one if you wish to rent some guns and some bullets. I needed a 50 cal (very big) machinegun. “No problem,” said the man at the shop. “But could you just sign this assuring us that the movie you’re making is not anti-Bush or anti-war.”

Also, you do not need a permit if you want — as I did — to transport a dead cow on the roof of your car through the Florida panhandle. That’s because this is banned by a state law.

Think about that. Someone has gone to all the bother and expense of drawing up a law that means that at some point lots of people were moving dead cows about on their cars. It must have been popular. Fashionable even.

Anyway, back to the guns. I needed them because I wished to shoot a car in the Mojave desert. But you can’t do that without the say-so of the local fire chief who turned up, with his haircut, to say that for reasons he couldn’t explain, he had a red flag in his head.

You find this a lot in America. People way down the food chain are given the power to say yes or no to elaborately prepared plans, just so their bosses can’t be sued. One expression that simply doesn’t translate from English in these days of power without responsibility is “Ooh, I’m sure it’ll be fine”.

And, unfortunately, these people at the bottom of the food chain have no intellect at all. Reasoning with them is like reasoning with a tree. I think this is because people in the sticks have stopped marrying their cousins and are now mating with vegetables.

They certainly aren’t eating them. You see them growing in fields, but all you ever find on a menu is cheese, cheese, cheese, or cheese with cheese. Except for a steak and cheese sandwich I bought in Mississippi. This was made, according to the label, from “imitation cheese”.

Nope, I don’t know what that is either but I do know that out of the main population centres, the potato people are getting fatter and dimmer by the minute.

Today the average petrol pump attendant is capable, just, of turning on a pump when you prepay. But if you pay for two pumps to be turned on to fill two cars, you can, if you stare carefully, see wisps of smoke coming from her fat, useless, war losing, acne-scarred, gormless turnip face.

And the awful thing is that you don’t want the petrol anyway, because it’ll simply get you to somewhere else, which will be worse. A point I shall prove next week when we have a look at what happened in Alabama. And why the poor of New Orleans will sue if the donation you make isn’t as big as they’d hoped for


thetimesonline.co.uk
 
tamarin
#2
"And, unfortunately, these people at the bottom of the food chain have no intellect at all. Reasoning with them is like reasoning with a tree. I think this is because people in the sticks have stopped marrying their cousins and are now mating with vegetables."
That would explain the emphasis now on 'smart food.' Kind of a neat cross-pollination thingie that will quite likely get a plant or tree in the White House at some point!
 
thecdn
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf

“I’m going to need a number,” he said. “Ooh, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m afraid I don’t have one.”

This didn’t seem to have any effect. “I’m going to need a number,” he said again, and then again, and then again. Each time I shrugged and stammered, terrified that I might be sent to the back of the queue or worse, into the little room with the men in Marigolds. But I simply didn’t have an answer.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said again, giving the distinct impression that he was an autobank, and that this was a conversation he was prepared to endure until one of us died. So with a great deal of bravery I decided to give him one. And the number I chose was 2,649,347.

This, it turned out, was fine. He’d been told by his superiors to get a number. I’d given him a number.

Does that ever ring a bell. When I was at the Calgary Airport flying to Louisville to look for a house I had to get my tn visa done. The woman asked what was the street address of the company I would be working for. I said I didn't know. Same question repeated in monotone voice. I don't know. Same question. Make up answer. Ok. She was sour, unfriendly, just a horrible person to deal with.

Then, a week later, when my family and I were driving across the border, the guy there said he didn't like the way the person at the airport filled out the papers and I would have to get it done again. Oh, and the only guy at this station who can do this doesn't come in for an hour and a half....

I've stood in line behind people trying to get their tn visa processed at an immigration station and heard the agent say, in effect, "No, this degree isn't in my little book and I have no ability to think or reason so therefore it is no good." And send someone who certainly seemed qualified as an aircraft mechanic back after she had already quit her job and was expected by a new company.

The low level peons at the immigration stations have far too much power for their training and intellect. Sometimes I think it's just jealousy considering the employment letters we bring contain our salary. It certainly is a terrifying experience having your life in the hands of people like this.
 
Claudius
#4
Quote:

Today the average petrol pump attendant is capable, just, of turning on a pump when you prepay. But if you pay for two pumps to be turned on to fill two cars, you can, if you stare carefully, see wisps of smoke coming from her fat, useless, war losing, acne-scarred, gormless turnip face.

...and this is what they call journalism in the U.K. Sounds like someting you'd see while waiting to buy your groceries.

.
 
jimmoyer
#5
I don't think the issue is whether Customs has morons
guarding the border, nor is it the issue that a
convenience store person is a moron.

I think the issue is us, we the people who lack
understanding.

The Customs agent, moron or not, was following
strict orders from his boss to scan an address and
get a number, and you all know as well as I do that
his ass will get kicked by his boss for not doing his job.

The people we deal with at the border, like our
police are getting the discretion to behave wisely
taken away from them.

We call them morons because we've taken any
discretion to make a decision on the fly away from
them.

Think aboudit.
 
Simpleton
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by tamarin

"And, unfortunately, these people at the bottom of the food chain have no intellect at all. Reasoning with them is like reasoning with a tree. I think this is because people in the sticks have stopped marrying their cousins and are now mating with vegetables."
That would explain the emphasis now on 'smart food.' Kind of a neat cross-pollination thingie that will quite likely get a plant or tree in the White House at some point!

You have a sense of humour, tamarin. Very funny. I'm impressed.

I do have one question, however. Is this sudden sense of humour inspired by the fact that the post is an article from a newspaper? :P

Very funny. The reference to G.W. and possibly even G.H.W. is very funny.
 
Simpleton
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by jimmoyer


The people we deal with at the border, like our
police are getting the discretion to behave wisely
taken away from them.

We call them morons because we've taken any
discretion to make a decision on the fly away from
them.

Oh yes, and we all recognize the kind of wise decisions that our police officers make. Their logic goes a little something like this:

Wealthy Criminal... Let him/her go.
Poor Criminal... Bust his/her nuts.

In my opinion, if the police want to make wise decisions, they can do it on their own time. While they're working for taxpayers, however, a ciminal is a criminal is a criminal.
 
#juan
#8
My son's inlaws,

for reasons unknown, have a cottage in Point Roberts, Washington. To explain, Point Roberts is a little, 2 mile long, point of land that protudes south through the forty ninth parallal from B.C.. There is a few stores and a couple thousand people(mostly Canadians) who own houses in this little burg. Not much else.

We were invited to a Barbeque at my son's inlaw's cottage in Point Roberts. When we got to the border, the U.S. border guy looked us over carefully, and asked, "where are you going? Quick as a flash, I said," Kansas City". That little joke got my car searched and a couple pages of more stupid questions. I am convinced the Americans have developed a drug that wipes out all traces of a sense of humour, and most of the I.Q. in anyone who holds a position of any power whatsoever. This was before 9/11 so that was not an excuse.

Canada uses the same drug on those civil servants who work the Motor Vehicle Branch, the Passport office,and parts of the Post Office.
 
jimmoyer
#9
Oh #juan, you're a big boy, even you know how people
are everywhere.

You wanna be cute with a hardass idiot, even you knew
that got you in trouble.

I like your "Kansas City" joke. Did you click your heels
when you said that ?

Every comedian pays a price.

LOL !!!

Who was stupid ???

I'm going to be a silly boy while the cop writes up my
speeding ticket ??

Oh yeah....

Bias and prejudice strikes every time.



LOL !!!

Who's paranoid ? Let me hear that one again.
 
Toro
#10
I got stopped at the Blaine crossing several months ago at 7:30am on a Saturday morning, clean-shaven, wearing a suit, with no other cars in line and me being polite and cheerful. The border guard pulled this big power trip on me, being Mr. Dour Serious Guy, looking through my car, etc.

I blame Canada's paranoia on 9/11.
 
Simpleton
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by Toro

I got stopped at the Blaine crossing several months ago at 7:30am on a Saturday morning, clean-shaven, wearing a suit, with no other cars in line and me being polite and cheerful. The border guard pulled this big power trip on me, being Mr. Dour Serious Guy, looking through my car, etc.

I blame Canada's paranoia on 9/11.

7:30am on a Saturday morning, you say? No other cars in sight, you say? Ya know, I've never known any border guards, but I've known more than my fair share of security guards. I can tell you from experience in having known security guards, and in having an inkling of common sense, that the border guard was probably just bored of sitting in his little toll booth.

I doubt that the experience you relate, has anything to do with the border guard pulling a "power trip." He/she was probably just bored out of his skull and checked your car for something to do.

Believe it or not, border guards are people too!
 
jimmoyer
#12
I'll take Toro's word for it that the dour guy was
pulling a little power trip ---- albeit within the confines
of his superiors allowing him to spot check intensely
and randomly, and perhaps to fill out a report he was
not racially or ethnically profiling anyone.

You're talking about a kind of guy who'll make grandma
take her shoes off and not help her with the difficulty
of it.

But Toro might be reminding us that both sides of every
border in the world have these examples, and
moronic behavior is not an exclusive franchise owned by any
one particular nation.
 
#juan
#13
Quote:

You wanna be cute with a hardass idiot, even you knew
that got you in trouble.

You have to understand that this is a sleepy little weekend community and the border station is probably the second or third largest employer. If that jerk asks everyone where they are going, he must get a whole variety of answers. If you look at a map, "where are you going?" is obviously a stupid question. The obvious answer is "There is only one town, where the f--k do you think?" For obvious reasons I didn't ask that. If he had asked "What is the purpose of your visit?", I would have told him.

If I ran the world it would be a better place,,,
 
jimmoyer
#14
Understood #juan, but still you took a chance with
an idiot. Perhaps you expect idiots to behavior better?

You ascribed such universal behavior to one particular
national psychosis, yet we'll see if you're right about
that by joking around with a Mountie while he's about
to cite you on a traffic violation and see if you have
the freedom to be as funny as you'd like to be.

You screwed up being Mr Smart Ass Funny Guy with
someone you didn't correctly size up in advance, eh ?

I have a friend who did the same thing in Santiago
Chile making a funny remark about his heart pills and
got a nightmare adventure for it.
 
Toro
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by Simpleton

7:30am on a Saturday morning, you say? No other cars in sight, you say? Ya know, I've never known any border guards, but I've known more than my fair share of security guards. I can tell you from experience in having known security guards, and in having an inkling of common sense, that the border guard was probably just bored of sitting in his little toll booth.

I doubt that the experience you relate, has anything to do with the border guard pulling a "power trip." He/she was probably just bored out of his skull and checked your car for something to do.

Believe it or not, border guards are people too!

Oh, its not the being pulled over that got me riled. I travel enough to know that it happens. It was the snotty, arrogant attitude that P-ed me off.
 
#juan
#16
In the topic header piece,

the author singles out the U.S. as being somehow worse than other countries. Believe me, many times I've wanted to vandalize our local Motor Vehicle branch after being given a hard time by some literal minded monkey who has neither the judgement or the intellect to be in a position of authority. Working for the government is an escape for some people. On the open market this dolt would have a difficuly time selling papers on the corner, or shining shoes. I consider this to be a universal problem.
 
Champloo
#17
Unfortunately, insulting, or complaining about the U.S. as a fallback, when someone has nothing important to say, has become quite trendy these days. I'm not complaining though, it is entertaining.
 
Simpleton
#18
Personally, I've never had a problem with a border guard on either side of the Canada/USA border. Although, in all fairness, I haven't crossed the border in about six or seven years. So that was well before 9/11 and the big border "lockdown," if you will.

I've only been turned back by U.S. authorities once. And that was because I was stupid enough to try to cross without identification. It was no big deal, though. The border guy just told me that I should have known better than to try to cross an international border without any identification, and he sent me back to Canada. Of course, he said that I could come back once I had my identification in my hand.

I kind of have a criminal record now though. Nothing that happened in the US. Just a couple of "misdemeanors." With all of the border stuff happening now, I wouldn't even dream of crossing the border without advance permission from U.S. Customs and Immigration. Not that I'm wanting to move to the US, but it is nice to shop over there once in a while.
 
Colpy
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by #juan

In the topic header piece,

the author singles out the U.S. as being somehow worse than other countries. Believe me, many times I've wanted to vandalize our local Motor Vehicle branch after being given a hard time by some literal minded monkey who has neither the judgement or the intellect to be in a position of authority. Working for the government is an escape for some people. On the open market this dolt would have a difficuly time selling papers on the corner, or shining shoes. I consider this to be a universal problem.

Thank you, Juan, I wanted to say that, but considering the amount of time I spend defending the USA, I thought I'd save my ammo for a bigger battle.
 
jimdig
#20
we may live in paranoia but we still suffer the consequences of this 9/11 incident. so much of our countrymen and women have suffered the war on two countries we are involve into.
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