18 September 2019
In line with all service industries, airports are trying to get machines to replace people.
We now have passport recognition scanners which, in my case, always fail to find sufficient resemblance between my face and the one on the passport. Singapore immigration, desperately needing to know who is going as well as coming, has added the double thumb print to the passport faceoff for those wanting to get out of the place. It should work without the intervention of humans, but didn’t when I tried to leave for Moscow.
The passport scanner took several runs at my passport and gave up. Then I was loudly told by a female official brandishing a long telescopic pointer that I must instead press my thumbs down on a glass panel. This I did, but not hard enough, she yelled, tapping her now extended pointer on the machine from a considerable distance. Fearful that she might give me six of the best with the pointer, I pushed with all the strength I could muster, but failed again. She grew exasperated and pointed me off to a counter occupied by other exasperated officials who passed around my passport as if it were a turd, tried again to face-match, failed, and then tried more thumbing. After that failed, they reluctantly let me out through the glass gate. This seemed to happen to a number of people trying to journey. One American man at the counter, also in identity crisis, was trying to get his passport back from an official who couldn’t recall being given it in the first place.
It appears that there are now more people required (especially immigration officials who are usually dressed up like drum majors) to show travellers how to use the labour-saving machines than if they had no machines at all. I daresay the machines will be perfected eventually, but being fodder for their failures does not appeal to me. Oi, that I should live so long!
Because we are members of the Intercontinental Ambassador’s Club, we get an automatic upgrade when we book a room. Since we were only staying one night on this leg of the odyssey, we booked an entry level room with the expectation we would ladder up one notch. Instead we went up like a Saturn rocket and finished on floor 11 with a Cinemascope view of Moscow from a massive suite with two bathrooms, three TVs (one to view from the bath), two toilets, drawers to burn, and a lounge with club-worthy couches and a partners’ desk. We expected a knock on the door and a family of 10 claiming shared occupancy.
Moscow is an impressive city, with buildings of girth and substance (rather like the people), wide streets and a driving style that prompts ridiculously high speed when there is a gap in the gridlock. I’m sure some cars were doing short bursts in excess of 120 kph in the middle of the city.
Tomorrow we set out for Suzdal and Yaroslavl with the promise of some hotel toaster revelations. The Intercontinental’s toaster was away at the panel beater but is expected to be back in service by the time we return.