Monday, October 12, 2009

What ... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

My Mum once told me about a PR video she saw at work. It showed a foreign client talking to a receptionist. At the end of the piece, people were asked for their thoughts and they all agreed that the man had been very rude and brusque. It turned out that if you translated his words directly into his native tongue, he was actually being incredibly polite. This was put forward as an example to not take everyone at face value.

I decided to apply this principal when I went through USA border control this afternoon after my return flight from Tokyo. For the questions posed to me, I simply translated their words into those I am sure they meant.

Your J1 visa has expired. What are you doing here?
Welcome back to America; the country in which you have paid taxes and made your home for the previous five years. We are delighted to see you again. What brings you back to us?

When will you leave?
For how long will we have the pleasure of your presence during this visit?

[Muttered] Welcome to America.
Welcome to America!

To which I replied:

[Brightly] Thank you!
I don't like you either.

The process was short though, and not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. You are not supposed to enter the USA as a tourist without a return plane ticket and of course, this was my return plane ticket from when I left Florida four months ago. Since I ultimately drive to Canada, I had brought a pile of paper work including my new job contract to prove my intention to leave, but this was only checked once at the Tokyo end and not at the border.

So hello from the flip side, people! Now everyone has to prey for that bottle I bought in the Tokyo duty-free and had to stuff into my checked luggage at Dallas to be transferred to Florida. If it cracks, my poor Totoro will get soused. That's completely inappropriate for a sweet anime character.

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