Thanksgiving customs… and immigration

WMD - Rhode Island, Bailey's Ledge

Today’s featured picture is one of the blessed views I can now enjoy having made it through US Customs & Immigration for the Thanksgiving holiday. And my children always think it hilarious I rarely manage to make it through customs ‘without incident.’

Not that I go looking for trouble, mind you. Oh no.

Bronnie was rarely strict with me, but walking through a US airport making one of my stupid jokes is something Bronnie would not tolerate. But, liking to experience things first hand, I learnt my lesson the hard way on one of our trips.

Suffice it to say, I was left reeling from the ‘pat down’ Customs Officer Doreen gave me.

Built like a flight hanger, Doreen came up close and very personal; so close she was practically wearing my bra – and I don’t wear bras. I also didn’t think you were allowed to pat people down inside the waistband? I might have chanced asking the question but for her buddies with the big guns.

Officials with big guns necessitate a lot of respect, although how hard is it to be a tough guy with a taser? Put down the guns and tasers and show us the real size of your manhood, I say.

Say in my head. Say in my head very very quietly.

Then there’s the security guys who take the opposite approach. The over-friendly, over jolly, hail-fellow-well-met approach. All the while sizing you up with a more serious peripheral eye trying to espy the crack cocaine and AK47 you’ve taped to your Spanx. As if anyone would be stupid enough to wear Spanx on a long-haul flight.

It’s the bracelets you see. They mark me out as a person of interest every time I air travel. There are about… hang on, let me count… eight of them, some intertwined in that Russian knot style.

I have had these bracelets a very long time, a few of which went on when my wrist was a young spritely thing of 18. Now at age Not-18, some of these hallmarks of my life have fused themselves to a more expansive wrist and they can’t come off without the assistance of an electric knife and a tub of KY Jelly.

So they beep. They beep every time I go through customs and I have the same conversation at airport security. Every time.

“Ma’am, remove those bracelets, please.”
“They can’t come off.”
“Ma’am…”
“No, you don’t understand, I got some of these when I was 18, and…”
“Ma’am…”
“My religion dictates that I do not remove them and anger the God of Bracelets.”
“Step over here, ma’am. My name is Doreen and I will be patting you down today.”

#Sigh.

On this trip, however, I’m travelling with my son Hart and, as all my children are dual citzenship, he had long ago fled to the no-wait queue.

Good news, though, I qualified to go through a special queue where a computer processes your details. No human interaction necessary, and all was going well until one of the final questions.

“Are you travelling with a family member today?”

I click ‘Yes.’

Please place their passport on the scanner.”

Except, I didn’t have said family member with me or his passport so that couldn’t happen.

Queue airport official.

“Ma’am, what seems to be the problem?”

“I’m travelling with my son, but he’s gone through a different queue because… blah, blah, blah.”

“So, you’re not travelling with your son?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Okay, we need to produce him and his passport for the computer scanner.”

“But he’s not here…”

“So, you’re not travelling with your son?”

“I am, but he is not here.”

“That is why you are being locked out, Ma’am.”

“Oh, I see. May I make a suggestion?”

Onlookers who had stopped all pretence of minding their own business, held a collective breath.

“Ma’am?”

“I think the question should be re-phrased to read: ‘Are you travelling with a family member who is stood right here with you at this computer kiosk with their passport to hand?’”

“Ma’am, would you step over to this queue, please?”

“Yes, yes, I will.”

I was eventually “processed” by a lovely Customs Officer named Jennifer.* And the reason I was last out of that customs hall, is because she agreed with me about those machines and their inane grammatically incorrect questions and how they can never be a substitute for human intervention.

Yes, even if that human intervention is Big Doreen with her aggressive pat down and buddies with guns – and is something I never thought I’d be grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday.

2 Comments

  • Passport control is designed to trip you up. Arriving at Luton airport just as the Easter holidays came to a close, I was also delighted to see a sign saying digital passports can go through the machines. My then 8 year old daughter and I both had digital passports! Bingo! Even for the machines we had to wait over 10 minutes in the queue. And just as we got to the front, there was another notice saying, “Only passengers over the age of 12 can use the machines.”

    We ducked the barriers and cut to the front of the regular queue. There were some cries from the queue but I was furious and paid no heed. The passport officer agreed with me. He said he’d told them a number of times to have a notice about the age restriction at the beginning of the queue but no one listens to him. Such a simple thing to do but they won’t. There, thanks for that. I feel better now.

    Happy Thanksgiving. xxx

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