Thursday, October 8, 2009

Previously Published: Passports, Pears and Gatekeepers Pt. III

[continued from Part II]

I was taken into a large room,
left behind a large yellow curtain. She returned a few minutes later and by gesture and grunt indicated that I was to follow round to the other side of the curtain. Standing there, at a computer, was a broad, fat man in his manager’s uniform. He waited for the girl to leave.

He started softly. Asked me what had happened. I was given about twenty seconds of talk-time – my feeble attempt to express my innocence – before he started to yell at me. I was not to EVER disrespect one of his officers. DID I UNDERSTAND? And suddenly I was in every bad American army movie I had ever seen, head down, hands clasped together before me getting all yes sir, no sir, three bags that I packed myself sir. And before you imagine yourself doing differently, know that he spent much effort yelling about how easily he could stop me from ever entering the United States again. I was now the crown king of deferential.

Was I American, he asked? I said no. I said I was Canadian. He corrected me. I was a foreigner. Did I understand? Yes, sir. The supervisor left. The girl returned.

She went through my bags. In my knapsack she found a pear. Underneath a Mack truck of rage from the fact that I had no recourse in any of this, I was still
pretty nervous, the way so many people must feel who cross the border with the “wrong” coloured skin. I quickly apologized, said I was planning to eat it before boarding the plane.

Instead of just confiscating it, the woman said she'd have to check it with agriculture. Off she went. More minutes ticked by. She returned. The pear was set aside. Another national American crisis diverted.

She clicked away at her computer after telling me to zip up my bags. Am I free to go? I asked tepidly. Still looking at her screen she said a flat “ba-bye” in response.

Furious and pearless I boarded the plane en route to Manhattan. Welcome to George Bush's* America.


Jonathan Mendelsohn is [sic**] a writer who splits his time between living in Canada and Japan.


* No more! Thank God!
**No more! Boo hoo! But may well be visiting over o-shogatsu. Woohoo! Sat school folks (Cass you don't teach at Sat school but I group you with that crowd cause your a cool cat Kansai gaijin), I'd love to see you guys.

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