Sunday, 17 November 2013

Crossing Borders

There is a moment when handing your passport to Border Security when you think briefly, "My God, they aren't going to let me in." It's only a moment, to be sure, but a terrifying one at that. My most terrifying instances are when I come back to the USA once a year: after waiting in the queue for an hour, I hold out my American passport and an overly cheerful security person will stare me down (while remaining cheerful, mind), and ask questions like,

"And how long have you been out of the States?"
It's in the computer in front of you... "Er, one year and three days...I live in Europe."
"And what do you do there?"
Words...I should be speaking words...but I'm so tired...Oh hell, they aren't going to let me in are they?
"Er...work...?"
"Ok ma'am, and where have you flown in from today?"
Today? What is today? What time zone is this? Bloody hell, where HAVE I flown in from?
"Um...London...no Reykjavik...I have my ticket somewhere..."
"Lucky you! I have always wanted to go!"
You work in an airport....how much closer can you get!?
And with a broad grin the security person will hand me back my passport and say the loveliest words you can hear when your body can't recall what hour it is meant to be on, you are starving and want breakfast (or is it dinner?) and can hardly remember your own name: "Welcome home, ma'am. You have a good day now."

God Bless America.

Tomorrow morning I have to cross the border from Mexico back into the States. When I did this trip previously four years ago, I flew in to Phoenix, smiled merrily at the security person (it's America, after all!) and this person looked at me so closely and stared so menacingly that I nearly jumped out of my skin. The last time I had been scrutinised so closely was in Australia when the bloke said, "Ya gonna have to git yer boots off, mate." I beg your pardon? But, to be fair, it was just because I'd just come from a rural area. They don't want other countries' cow shit. (And who can blame them, really?)

Needless to say, I'm terrified. I'm never like this when I go to Sweden (well, they're just too lovely to bar anyone from their wonderful country anyway), and the only other country to ask stupid questions is The Netherlands (probably because I go there so often). However, when I'm a citizen of the country I'm trying to get into, I really worry, "Will they let me back in?"

I've got dual citizenship, so twice the terror. Splendid. It's not so bad in the UK - I honestly don't think they even look at my photo or name, they just see 'British Citizen' and wave me through with a grunt. They certainly don't ask stupid questions. Can you imagine, "So, where've you been, love? Had a nice holiday then? Jolly good, well, here's your passport; cups of tea are available at baggage reclaim..." Honestly, I would pay extra just to hear that.

Part of this terror of re-entering the US is this unfounded fear that I'm not a proper American. True, I've lived there since I can remember, went to high school football games, and patriotically celebrate the Fourth of July every year (fireworks and bbqs - brilliant!) - however, I'm an immigrant and didn't become an American citizen until I was 18. They might not want me back! Or they may ask me to explain the meaning of Thanksgiving when trying to get through security...!

Wish me luck!