Monday, August 15, 2011

One last love song

"Try and take a seat over there."

For the first time in over a year, I was driving to the USA after more than three months since my last airflight in. This had the unfortunate side affect that I needed to stop and get a new green tourist I-94 visa waiver. My flight from Buffalo airport was at 1:10 pm and --knowing as I did the affection US border control has for human kind-- I had left just before 9 am for what would be a 90 minute drive if I was in an armoured Bat mobile with a disregard for international laws.

I arrived at the Niagara bridge around 10 am and shuffled my way for half an hour through the giant car tetris game to the border crossing. There, my passport was sent up a pipe leaving me to follow through the more traditional entrance of the office's main door. That was the point where I was told to try and take a seat.

... the operative word here was 'try'.

As far as I could see, everyone in Ontario required a US tourist visa right now and they'd each brought seven possibly-illegally-immigrated friends along for the ride. I stood for the first fifteen minutes before managing to squeeze into a seat beside a family with two children. The mother was exclaiming at the men in uniform while her ten year old son wanted to use up all her US change in the drink vending machine. She refused him. I obnoxiously decided to buy a soda, just so I could suffer slightly less than at least one other person.

Really, it was worth getting an iPhone just for situations like these. I worked my way through two games of 'plants versus zombies' and multiple chapters of my ebook before I was called to the counter. The border guard in charge of my passport was evidently a new recruit; he smiled at me and was fascinated by the computer system. A detailed conversation with a colleague ensued while he inquired why the system required both my sets of finger prints but no thumbs; apparently variations on this biometric theme are demanded depending on what the database finds when the passport is scanned.

Enchanting though this was, time was running out before my flight. I tried to keep smiling pleasantly and resisted the urge to tell him it was a magic 8 ball and just live with that.

Eventually, cash was handed over and my passport was stamped. The guard asked me the time of my flight (I had the impression that many he'd asked that day had replied with an hour in the past) and how many times I had visited my friend in Missouri before.

"Oh ... uh .... none."

I tried to make it sound damn casual in a manner that didn't suggest this was someone I had met on the internet. Fortunately, he seemed to consider this normal. Maybe the computer was just more interesting or perhaps no-one ever visited the mid-west more than once.

I took my passport, smiled at everybody, nodded to the guards on the way out... then I slammed on the gas. It was lucky that I'd checked in for my flight online. I was the last person to board the aircraft but then, I was totally worth the wait.

It occurred to me as we headed down the runway that this might be the last time I would face the US border for quite a while. Will you miss me, guys?


  1. As I was reading this, I kept on thinking "this is not going to end well". I'm glad it did!

  2. Yeah, I thought I was doomed right until I passed through security!