[continued from Pt I]
YOU CANNOT ENTER WITHOUT AN ADDRESS, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I said I did and she directed me to a pay phone.
It was only because it was a childhood friend that I remembered his parents’
phone number by heart and so could call and get the address.
On my return I was permitted to bypass the line. The director of traffic, the man in the blue blazer, held me back when the next available customs officer came free. It seemed I was to be sent back to the lady at booth five. Only she wasn’t freeing up. She was harassing some other traveler.
Eventually I was sent to booth number four, adjacent to the woman’s. She had her back to me and there was bullet-proof glass to muffle the sound.
The young male officer at booth four politely asked me where I was going. The Bronx, I said, address in hand, ready. He didn’t ask for it and was already stamping my boarding pass. And that was that.
Until, that is, the lady officer behind him turned around and saw me. Through the bullet-proof glass she asked the officer, DID HE GIVE YOU AN ADDRESS?
The officer said no and I frantically raised up the paper the address had been written on to show her I had it. I told her that he hadn’t asked for it.
You have to understand. It doesn’t matter that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The important thing was that to this point I had been deferential, obliging and relatively subservient. Then I got stupid. I mean how many times have you been told to never ever get angry or snippy or anything but obscenely obsequious to customs officers? The woman started yelling about something or other and, truth is, I’d had enough so I just gently turned away from her and looked back at the more personable young man. He gave me my stamped boarding pass and passport and I was sent on my way.
I had what I needed and had only to pass one more person, a young woman who had been standing near booth five the whole time. She took my passport from me and said I had to accompany her. I asked, in my most Disney-innocent manner, if I had done something wrong? Sorry sir. That was all she said and kept marching. I was to follow.
Tomorrow: Pt. III of III