On Wednesday morning, I arrived in Miami at 5:30 a.m., a bit tired after my week-long visit to South America, only to find the customs area unusually crowded – a situation attributable to the fact that all the planes seem to have gotten in at the same time from multiple points in South America. Needless to say, customs gets a bit crazy when this many planes land simultaneously, which perhaps accounts for my encounter with an agent named Stephanie.
It was after I had waited in line for perhaps 20 minutes that I found myself being interviewed by Stephanie, who looked at my declaration and asked me my surname. When I replied, “Zolezzi,” she pointed to the line where I had written, “Anthony,” then instructed me to go to the back of the line and fill the form out correctly. Then, like a schoolteacher administering discipline to an errant pupil, she proceeded to lecture me about how it was my responsibility to follow the instructions on the form and this was, and I quote, “very, very bad.” When I responded, “Are you kidding?” and reached for the paper, she really lost it because my hands had gone over the counter, and circled a “1” on my declaration. What that means, for those of you unaccustomed to customs, is that she put me through this long line of secondary inspection where they go through everything.
I have to laugh when I think about how this one individual managed to impact my schedule and delay all my plans for the morning. It reminded me of a time early in my career when a sales manager that reported to me said, “Anthony, when you get on me, I get on my wife, she gets on the kids and the kids kick the dog.” So we really have to keep in mind the trickle effect of not only “getting in someone’s grill,” but conversely doing something nice or helpful. A small example occurred just as I was finally leaving the secondary inspection area, thinking about how my tax dollars were being wasted on petty, spiteful procedures, when I got a text that a friend of mine had left me the key to his hotel room instead of checking out so I could shower before our meeting. Little did this friend realize how much that small act of thoughtfulness meant to me after the treatment I had just received at the hands of a bad-tempered bureaucrat.