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Trip Report Roman (and Florentine, Venetian) Holiday with la Principessa

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She's not really a principessa. She's my daughter, therefore comes from what I consider sturdy peasant stock. Calvin Trillin once wrote that he referred that way to his wife when traveling to get extra respect, as in "La Principessa would like a canal view table." I never actually remembered to call her that, just as I forgot to use my hands when talking. But we had a lot of fun anyway, and our last night there she bought me a little refrigerator magnet with that photo of Gregory Peck looking so cool on a scooter with Audrey Hepburn behind.

She's been living in London for a year and a half, thrilled to land a job with a river view, and I hadn't seen her for a year. Her visa status added tension: was coming, then not, then unexpectedly arrived. So we got to leave the UK, and after my time in London we spent ten nights in Italy.

I flew UA for the first time, STL - IAD - LHR, and was delighted both ways overseas to have an entire 3 seats to stretch out. The food was good, planes were new. Would definitely go that way again.

GLOBAL ENTRY, ha, AND THE AIRPORT I NOW DISLIKE A LOT: IAD
Now my rant. In early spring 2016, when they were predicting hours-long TSA lines all summer, I had just endured lengthy Border Control at ORD and had three domestic trips planned between May and late September. Easy decision: I applied for and paid the $100 for Global Entry, thinking how nice it would be to flounce past the shuffling proletariat with that fancy card. When I got the date for my interview, the soonest possible was two days after returning from my last summer trip. Oh, well.

This trip, TSA security in STL was lovely. Border control at the UK had a shorter line than usual at noon on a Wednesday, and the agent and I had a friendly little chat. Border Control at Marco Polo was downright charming, and when I got patted down leaving Rome it almost felt like a backrub. LHR security rightly judged me to be entirely benign.

Then I got back to the good old USA and Dulles. When you deplane they send you down one of two Arrivals chutes, depending on whether you're making a connection. Finally, I thought, my Global Entry will pay off. I entered Border Control, a huge room where I was the only passenger. There I was "randomly selected" for a customs check, my passport trapped in an orange box. Three officials so far had dealt with the threat posed by me, and I was waved to a third. He opened my suitcase and looked at every item inside. " What's this?" "Those would be fancy Italian candy bars for my husband. He likes chocolate." "What's this?" "That is a Mason Pearson hairbrush, also a gift for my husband." (He peered at and practically sniffed the box, but did not open it.) "And this?" (Here he attempted to wrench open the John Lewis box containing a truffle-filled Easter Egg, sealed as purchased. I offered to break it open. He declined, apparently disappointed.) This went on for several post-Atlantic flight minutes. He asked probing questions. Finally I was allowed to stagger away.

Now, to my surprise, I encounter a TSA security station where nine agents lounged, waiting for the potential troublemakers. Since they surreally only had me, they had to make the best of it. Shoes off. I stood in the XRay thing with arms overhead, and emerged to get a very thorough and surly frisking indeed. When she told me she had to swab our hands (for explosives), I said, "Of course you do."

Can I be excused for lapsing into sarcasm? The poor thing was only doing her job. Should I have been glad that all nine of those idle agents didn't practice their malefactor-detecting skills on me?

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