Your Mother Always Told You To Wear Clean Underwear, Right?

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In my defense I was pretty tired and battling hip pain when I finally arrived at the customs building on the Canadian side of the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. So perhaps a little of my inappropriateness might be excused. However, I would like it noted that Homeland Security does not have even a little bit of a sense of humor. It doesn’t help that I’m the kind of person who crosses out “Caucasian” on forms and writes in “SmartAss-American.”

Honestly, I probably was a little too tired to cross the bridge on foot after walking around the American Falls side again this morning. My hip has been acting up a little and I really needed some water. The temps here in Niagara were warmer than were predicted, and I really should have brought water with me. I was surrounded by millions of gallons of it, but still I was parched. But Dammit! I came all this way and was within yards of another country. I was going!

So when I entered the customs building I was in a giddy, tired state of mind and that’s where things went downhill. I stepped up to the window and handed the Canadian Customs Agent my passport. He began clicking some keys on his keyboard.

Agent: Good morning. Where are you coming from?

Tempest: Do you mean that in a 60s, groovy kind of way?

Agent:  (eyeballing me) Where do you live?

Tempest: New Jersey.

But I said New Jersey in sort of a sing-songy way. Why? Because he’s staring at my passport, which I mistakenly believed had my address written on it, and I thought he was just busting my chops.

At this point, he raised his head and locked eyes on me. I recognized my faux paux, but I was too tired-giddy to care. Or at least care enough. I have a sister who laughs long and loud in inverse proportion to the direness of the circumstances. I apparently began channeling her. I started to giggle as though I was stoned.

I didn’t see him move, but I’m now guessing that he either pressed some kind of button, or I was visible through a mirror, because two additional agents quickly came through a back doorway. A very tall man and a woman about my height. The woman asked me to step around the counter and join them at the table while the Canadian agent returned   to his window. They identified themselves as Homeland Security. Very politely.

I now realized that I’d have to downshift my flippant attitude to avoid a strip search, which is why I assume the female was present.

Tall US Agent: Are you a local resident or a visitor?

Tempest: Visiting from New Jersey, arrived on Wednesday and leaving on Saturday.

Tall Guy speaks in a measured confident voice using formal language. I am in trouble.  I am now over-answering questions. Any lawyer will tell you this is a bad idea. But I continue.

Tall US Agent: What is the purpose of your visit?

Tempest: We came up here to gamble. We’re staying at the Seneca Niagara Casino over on the NY side of the Falls.

Tall US Agent: With whom are you traveling?

Tempest: My husband.

Note: I was not wearing a wedding band, which of course I see them visually notice.

Tall US Agent: Where is your husband right now?

Tempest: In the casino, gambling.

Tall US Agent: Why are you not with him?

Tempest: Oh, I don’t gamble.

Female Agent: (pipes up, but talking slowly) Didn’t you just tell us that you and your husband came up to gamble?

This isn’t going well.

Tempest: Well, that and sightsee. We’ve seen the American Falls so far and I’m crossing over to see the Canadian side. (And at this point I’m mentally debating whether it would help if I started humming either the Star-Spangled Banner or O Canada.)

Female Agent: Did you rent a car?

Tempest: No. We came in on Amtrak but didn’t rent a car.

Female Agent: How are you planning to visit the attractions in the area without a car?

Tempest: We’re not visiting any attractions. (Now realizing that I mentioned sightseeing, and realizing that I’m not helping myself.) We’re just here to see the Falls and gamble – well my husband gambles – but I’m just here to relax and visit the Falls.

Tall US Agent: Your only activity is visiting the Falls, the State Park?  Are you planning to meet anyone at the Falls?

Tempest: Who would I meet?  (Stop it, Tempest!  Stop.  It.)

Tall US Agent: (very politely) Would you allow us to see your purse?

What am I going to say?

At this point they take my purse and begin to purposefully unload my wallet in front of me. They count out my money and repeat the amount to me aloud for confirmation.

They pull out my RID card – Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf – and ask me if I’m an Interpreter. I answer no. They look at me but don’t pursue the incongruity.

They pull out a library card from the Livingston, NJ Public Library. They look at my Driver’s License, which bears the name of a different town. They ask me why I have a library card from a different town. I explain that I work in Livingston and that library is easier to get to and from. I also note for them that it’s expired. Again, providing information not requested. Please note: don’t try to act too eager to help Homeland Security. They look at you funny.

They take my Driver’s License and every credit card over a computer. I don’t ask them what they’re doing. I’m just glad I didn’t bring my pillbox with me, needing explain all those damn medications.

They soon bring my belongings back to me and tell me that I can put them away.

They ask me how long I expect to be in Canada. When I tell them about 2 hours, they tell me I’m free to go.

But I just don’t know when to stop, do I?

Tempest: (putting away everything into her purse while the Homeland Security agents stand up) Wait, aren’t you going to stamp my passport?

Both agents stare down at me, and I can even feel the eyes of the Canadian agent on me from behind.

Tall US Agent: (a little too testily) We do not stamp passports on walkovers.

Tempest: (pouting and whining a little ) Ohhhhhh…. (looking back up at their stares) *blink…blink*   Uhm…okay, then, thank you

I proceeded to get the hell out of there.

Perhaps I should stop at a lingerie store in town. I should have matching underwear for the inevitable intimacy I’m expecting on the return trip.

May 6th, 2012

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