A Quicker Way Through Customs At Bush Intercontinental

Hair Balls was escorted by a customs agent out of the Bush airport today, and we left through a door with a big red sign that said, "Do Not Exit, Alarm Will Sound."

When we exited and the alarm didn't sound, the agent chuckled a bit and said, "That's government."

We were at the airport to check out another government device, a new electronic, self-service kiosk for international travelers. Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection are promoting the kiosk to get more travelers to enroll in the program.

The kiosk allegedly cuts time at the customs check from about five minutes to 40 seconds (time waiting on line doesn't count).

"It gives officers more time to check the passengers we might consider high risk," Paula Rivera, a spokeswoman for the customs department, told Hair Balls.

Not everyone is approved for the program -- there are 48 denials so far -- and things that might get you denied include: being a terrorist, boarding a plane with 14 Asian songbirds taped to your legs or bringing a deadly beetle into the country.

The international terminal was empty this morning -- apart from customs officers and media types taking pictures and video of an electronic kiosk -- so a "plant" was used to demonstrate the machine. You insert your passport, the machine takes your picture, you scan both fingerprints and you're done.

We were rather impressed by the machine and demonstration and we forgot how we ever thought the kiosk could fail. Then the alarm didn't sound.

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