Tag Archives: Passport

I’m Glad It Wasn’t Me This Time

I should just have been pleased that it wasn’t me facing an inquisition from the Border Patrol Himself is living in the “foreign” country now.

Source: Public domain

For all the years I lived in England I had to get in the long queue with all the other refugees in Europe at airports and immigration checkpoints. I’ve had my passport thumbed, queried and stamped and my face peered at with alternate glances at the passport photo that bore no resemblance to me after my most recent trip to the hairdresser.

I struggled to answer difficult questions coherently when sleep-deprived after a night flight. “Where have you flown from?” That one always threw me.

“Ummmmmm. Baltimore.” It was already a world away and seemed a lifetime ago.

“Are you married?”

“What? Oh. Yes.” Pause. Expectant look. If he’d wanted more information he should have asked an open question.

“Where is he?”

“He’s standing behind you.” And had been for come considerable time as he’d queued with the privileged, waived his British passport at some checkpoint Charlie person and loitered on the suspicion-free side of the immigration desks waiting for me.

Living in a foreign country (that would be England) I’d endured laughter at my American pronunciation, tolerated asides and jokes and subtle references that were rooted in the English consciousness from 30 to 40 years ago. I was often the only one who didn’t “get it.”

“I’m Julian and this is my friend Sandy.” Uproarious laughter from himself.

What?”

“You remember.”

“No.”

“Kenneth Williams.”

“I’m not with you.”

“From Round the Horne.”

“What’s that?”

“A Sixties radio show.”

“You mean in the olden days when they called it the wireless. You know I didn’t live here then.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls-2s5WnMxY&feature=player_detailpage

Greencard3.gif
Source: http://blog.uscis.gov/2010/05/new-design-green-card-goes-green.html

Now it’s Jimmy’s turn. He’s the foreigner and I frequently say to him, “Oh, yeah,” in an off hand, of course! tone of voice when he queries the little nuances of life, customs and history in the U.S. I can quote the first few lines of the Gettysburg address for whatever good that does me. I’m not proud of this but I can sing along to the Mickey Mouse Club lyrics. I can say, “You remember Foster Brooks don’t you?”

“No.”

“He always played a drunk.”

“No.”

“That skit with Dean Martin.”

“No.”

“So funny!”

“NO!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Ap7EgHoZizY

I now have to translate American into English for himself:

“Spackle. You know, polyfilla.” or “You can stop laughing. Fanny is not a rude word here.” or “The guy won’t know what a spanner is. It’s called a monkey wrench.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No.”

“Why?” I know you’re fascinated so click here.

English, as she is spoke in America, has to be repeated to himself when his ear is not tuned in to American English as mine wasn’t to the Queen’s English.

I’m not wanting him to be in a predicament like the time I had to get off the coach bound for Paris from England. I was the only passenger with an American passport. All my fellow passengers cheered when French Immigration let me reboard the coach after the interrogation. They thought it was funny. I did not.

I’m just glad I haven’t got the feeling of being the odd one out any more.

My Husband is an Alien

Credit Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

“American citizens?”

“My wife is American. I’m a green card holder.”

“Can I see it please?”

Jimmy turned his head to me with that startled expression I could read only too well. Oh, bugger. “Where is your green card?” I whispered, already knowing that it wasn’t on his person.

“It’s in my passport.”

“Which is . . . ?”

“Under the slide.” I blew out the breath I was holding and my shoulders slumped in dismay as he turned back to the Border Control patrolmen, who had already scanned the back seat and open boot compartment of our SUV for stowaways. “It’s in the trailer,” he told them.

“Can you pull over please and get it out for us?” The trailer on the road in front of us had stopped at the checkpoint for only a few seconds and then moved on. We were at least 10 miles from the Mexican border. Why was there Border Control here? As we pulled over I said, “Show them your Washington driver’s license. That should do for ID.” We were naïve about the policing of the Mexican border in Texas.

Jimmy stepped out reaching for his wallet as I leapt out of the other side of the car even though Border Control did not seem the least bit interested in me.

The dark complexioned patrolmen were dressed in plain green fatigues and I have a mental image of them clutching machine guns to their chests. Of course they weren’t. I just thought they should. I felt like I was in a movie.

Jimmy offered his driver’s license as he tried to explain how difficult it would be to get his passport and green card out of the trailer. “I’ll have to get the supports out of the locker and snap them into place in order to pull the slide out so I can go in the trailer and get under the dinette seat and get the file box out to find my passport.”

“OK.”

Well that wasn’t the response Jimmy had hoped for. The patrolmen were pleasant enough but they meant business. Dark hair, dark mustaches, dark glasses, their faces softened a little when they smiled but they weren’t prepared to be too friendly yet. The taller of the two of them, about my height, clutched Jimmy’s license possessively. The other one came up to my nose.

Why is it I find short men with olive skin tones and black mustaches so menacing? Was it because we’d had a run in with a restaurateur of similar stature and complexion in Toledo, Spain? (We were completely in the right and he was completely in the wrong for your information.)

President Richard Nixon, who declared a U.S. 'war on drugs,' meets with Elvis Presley in 1970. In a handwritten letter, the singer asked to be appointed as a 'Federal Agent at Large' in the drugs battle.
Here is Jimmy with Federal Agent Presley. (Don’t look too closely.)
“Can you use my driver’s license instead of my green card?” asked Jimmy expectantly.

“We can run an identity check with it. It could take a while.”

“How long?”

“Fifteen minutes, two hours . . . ?” and then he shrugged.

“I’ll get my passport.”

Being an American citizen with an American passport (somewhere in the depths of our stationery-cum-file-drawer locker) and standing on American soil I, perhaps foolishly, decided to bait the Border Patrolmen. Jimmy would have dug me in the ribs with his elbow at this point but he was busy trying to protect his own identity and grunting as he pulled out the slide (our bed-in-a-drawer that slides out the back of the trailer). “Don’t you want to see my passport?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You trust me then?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I don’t sound American.”

“No, ma’am.”

Well!

Jimmy had pulled the rear slide out and walked around to the door. The Border Patrolmen hustled after him and stood outside the door. They obviously didn’t trust him.

Map: U.S.- Mexico Border SOURCE: THEI Archives (Public Domain)

I kept Menendez and Martinez company while we waited for Jimmy who was crashing around in the trailer.

I was feeling distinctly left out of the process now, so called in to Jimmy “Can you bring my passport as well?” They could look at it whether they wanted to or not.

Once the green card was scrutinized and the American passport was ignored smiles broke out and we established that there would be more border Patrol checks starting with El Paso, then New Mexico and Arizona and on into California.

The passports now reside in the glove compartment much to Jimmy’s annoyance instead of well hidden and safe in the trailer. Don’t tell anyone you know where they are.

“You should have just told them we were both American citizens. They would have let us straight through.” But do you think he would do that? Of course not but then he would be the one to get into trouble wouldn’t he?

I never want to fly again. I mean it this time.

Sydney Airport
Sydney Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A jolt of anxiety was what we got when we tried to check in online for our 15 hour flight from Sydney to San Francisco followed by a connecting flight to Phoenix. Our flight to San Francisco had been cancelled. After much angst and many now-what-are-we-going-to-do’s the airline sent an email to say we were rebooked on a flight to LA and onwards. We didn’t care for the seats we’d been allocated so tried to change them. That’s when the trouble started.

Darlene greeted us with a wan smile when we arrived the next day at the check-in desk before she began processing our reservations and passports.

“I guess the flight is full,” Jimmy said conversationally.

“It’s overbooked,” she said bluntly.

Out the window went our plans of asking her to reassign us some better seats.

“Have you checked in online?” she asked.

“We’ve no idea.”

She looked up from her busyness.

“We tried to change our seats before checking in and couldn’t so checked in then phoned the airline at the airport. She unchecked us but couldn’t change our seats either. We checked in again but had so many conflicting emails, we don’t know what we’ve done.” Darlene frowned and tapped her computer keys.

My suitcase had disappeared and passport and boarding card had been returned to me. Darlene studied Jimmy’s green card and continued to frown and tap.

“I’m just phoning the service desk. I’m sorry to keep you,” she said.

Jimmy looked worried. “I’m not on the flight,” he muttered. I began wondering where I’d packed my phone so we could call his daughter to come back to the airport and pick him up. We’d already been told by someone in the queue that the last seat on the flight had gone and no more seats were available until two days hence. How big is LAX? Would I find my connecting flight? And where was that taxi rank in Phoenix? Keys! Must get J’s keys. I left mine in the apartment. I was going to have to switch out of blond mode to get myself home.

The theme restaurant and control tower at Los ...
The theme restaurant and control tower at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But what I said out loud was, “She’s looking at your passport and checking your green card. We know there’s no problem with it. I’m sure everything will be fine.”

After another 10 minutes of deliberate non eye contact from Darlene, she finally shared, “You have a seat on the flight,” she said looking at me. “I don’t have a seat booked for you,” she said to Jimmy.

Darlene put her head down again and kept tapping. Jimmy started sweating. Other passengers checked in and came and went, came and went. We stood our ground. No one said a word. Another 5 minutes went by.

“37 E and F. Are they the seats you were booked on?”

“Yes.”

L1140523.JPG
L1140523.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You’re both on the flight.”

“Don’t do that to me!” Jimmy cried.

Darlene’s facial muscles relaxed into a smile. “Can I offer you a piece of advice? Don’t phone the help desk. They’re helpless. They mess up people’s reservations and when the flight is full we can’t fix it.”

English: Qantas A380 preparing to depart LAX o...
English: Qantas A380 preparing to depart LAX on it’s first flight on the new LAX-SYD route October 24, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good to know.

We’ll fly with Qantas next time.

Yes, yes, I know. I’ve just contradicted the title. I have to fly. I don’t have to love it. Do you love air travel?