May 9th, 2009

Beagles, baggage, and bombs

I've been waiting to update in the hope that I would get more information about the canine situation, but so far there hasn't been much progress. I did receive an email letting me know that I meet the minimum qualifications for the position, but so did my co-worker, so we still don't know which of us will get the assignment.

I did hear more about the language test, albeit second-hand. One of my classmates who also applied for it told me that our new supervisor claims we have to finish cargo training before taking the test. (Our previous supervisor hadn't said that.)

Several amusing things have happened at work. A couple weeks ago, one of my classmates saw a group of people hanging out together waiting for their luggage, and he decided to send the whole group through agriculture inspection. It turned out that they were the cast of a major motion picture, and they were none too happy about having to be inspected. (He hadn't seen the movie, so he didn't know who they were.) The other day, a co-worker's car broke down and had to be towed. When everyone recommended that she become a member of AAA for the roadside assistance, she became extremely confused. She was convinced that she had to join AA and receive a certificate of completion before being allowed to join AAA. (She had three supervisors in stitches by the end of the conversation.) One of the things I am asked to do thanks to my Japanese skills is translate for the CBPOs, the officers in charge of collecting customs duty and determining whether people are bringing illegal items into the country. On a recent occasion, the officer who requested my assistance seemed to think the passenger would be reluctant to talk to me. I soon found out why: The officers had stopped a Japanese man with several porn CDs, and they wanted me to question him to make sure they didn't contain child porn. (Luckily the man was quite easygoing about the whole thing.)

Most days pass without too much incident. Thursday, however, was very eventful. We started off the morning by having a fire drill during a time when there were few passengers in either terminal. That was all well and good. A couple hours later, we were back to business as usual when we heard people yelling, and a supervisor came rushing up, ordering us to evacuate all the passengers immediately. At first we wondered whether it was another drill, but it was actually a real evacuation due to a bomb scare. (Thankfully, it was a false alarm.)

One big flaw in our evacuation procedure wound up becoming apparent. The agriculture specialists, including the supervisors, don't have any walkie talkies or other means of communicating with each other as the CBPOs do. My group was standing around with one supervisor for an hour before the supervisor let us back in the terminal. When we got back inside, another supervisor yelled at us for being missing for an hour; it seems his group didn't have a clue where our group was (standing at a different exit), and they went back to work much sooner than we did. I hope the supervisors got that all straightened out among themselves afterward.

I have a nice three-day weekend right now, but then I'll be on the afternoon (1-9pm) shift for a week. That's annoying, because it means I can't really do anything social during the day or the evening. At least it's only for five days, and then I'll be back to morning shift.