Saturday, June 4, 2011

The bordinator

"Nationality?" the humourless US border guard demanded, staring at the cover of my British passport.

".... British."

"Purpose for your visit to the United States?"

"I'm visiting a friend in Chicago."

"What is in Chicago?"

".... my friend."

Ever noticed how my conversations at the US border are highly circular? The guard flicked through my passport, pausing as usual at the two expired US visas.

"You were a student here or something?"

"Yeah, a few years ago."

This was true, but in fact both the visas in my current passport were for research jobs after I'd graduated. I contemplated whether this was going to matter but apparently it went unnoticed.

"I have a recent stamp," I pointed out. "On the back page from April."

The guard continued to look at the centre of my passport. "These are old," he declared.

"Yes, my visas have long expired."

Through the tinted glass, I saw him put my passport in a tube to send it across to the main office.

"Hey, excuse me! I have a recent stamp! I don't need to stop."

I was ignored.

"Excuse me!!"

It was 8 am and my flight was at 10. Technically, I had time to stop if I was forced to go in and get a new visitor visa and passport stamp. The problem was that a delay could cause me to run smack into rush-hour traffic in Buffalo. I also wouldn't put it past the border office to take more than an hour to write out the necessary small green slip.

It is rare to meet a border guard with any care for humanity. This guy was no exception and, should I sound too irritable, I was quite confident would pipe my passport away out of perversity, setting it alight as it flew down the tube.

The guard paused. "It's from April," he said curtly, still holding the dispatch tube like a pipe bomb. "It's expired."

"No, I got it in April," I protested quickly. "It's good to July. Would you let me show you?"

Admire my politeness in the face of obnoxious sadistic border guards. There was more superfluous flicking through the passport. Then a long pause.

Cake or death?

The passport was handed back to me. "I found it," he said expressionlessly.

"Thank you." I flashed him a charming smile. He returned it with a look that made me confident he was the precursor model for the Terminator.  I accelerated hurriedly and scooted off over the bridge.


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