Border guards

I always seem to flummox them to some degree. See, in my head it makes perfect sense that I am going to NY to see my husband, and that my kids are back in Montreal with their father. Apparently, if you are not HSM it is not that obvious what the family dynamic is!!

On my way down to NY on Friday the border guard looked like he was just about old enough to start shaving, but was very stern and asked me a whole lot of questions. Then he asked me what I do. What do I do? I am a mommy – I always say this proudly. (Someone once asked why I don’t tell the border guards I am a writer – I said, my writing career isn’t paying yet. They pointed out, however, that I also don’t get paid to be a mom. Hmm). So saying one is a mommy leads to questions about why I am travelling alone. Where are the children? I am always so tempted to say “kids, what kids?” but one does not joke at the border.

I need to work out a brief paragraph that explains the situation, without the border guard getting all confused, and me tripping over my words to try to explain. I came up with this “Visiting my husband – second marriage. He lives in NY, I live in Montreal. Kids from my first marriage live with me and are visiting with their father this weekend, he lives in Montreal too”. Coherent enough, right? But who can be coherent when you have just been grilled about what your husband does for a living and where and how much money does he make and do you have any weapons on you or 10,000 dollars?

The dude finally understood, wished me luck, and have a nice day.

I cannot wait till this border crossing thing is over and I don’t have to deal with heart-in-mouth syndrome on a regular basis.

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8 responses to “Border guards

  1. Honestly,
    With the amount you travel back and forth, and the grief some of them have given you, I’m surprised that they don’t recognize you by now…

    • yeah, i would think they would wave you right through the border or at the very least know u by your first name :)! oh well, ‘parently not :(!

  2. I FEEL your pain! What about getting one of those pre-authorized speed-passes so you can zoom right through (isn’t it called NEXUS)? I always wonder why I haven’t done that!!

  3. From 1990-1992, when my husband was doing a post-doc at the Weizmann and I was working in Providence, Rhode Island, I made several 2-3 week trips to Israel. I always got interrogated for at least 20 minutes by Israeli security. Once when my husband didn’t just drop me at Ben Gurion, he was surprised when it took so long and they went through the whole process of changing questioners and asking the same questions. In contrast, he had always whizzed through security, charming them with his enthusiastic but idiosyncratic Hebrew.

    One thing I will say for the Israeli security people: they were never racist towards me. I don’t remember them ever asking if I was Jewish even though Jewish references would tend to come out when they asked me questions. In contrast, because I am ethnically Chinese so I don’t “look Jewish”, I have been treated rudely by people in synagogues and in a rabbinically supervised supermarket. The main thing that made me “suspicious” was that my husband and I lived in different countries (your situation, Hadassah). They were clearly concerned that I might be a “mule” like the unfortunate pregnant Irish woman that El Al security caught who had no idea that her fiance had tried to make her into an unwitting suicide bomber.

    When the security people used to apologize for their long questioning, I always told them that I didn’t mind because it made me feel safer to know that they were doing a thorough job. After all, I know that I’m not a terrorist, but I’m not so sure about the rest of the passengers.

    • i know they are doing their job, it just gets old after a while. I know I am worth being let in, and that I am not a terrorist. 😉

  4. I think it is a good idea to work out how best to tell your story to give them the information they are really interested in and to answer the questions they are likely to have. US Homeland Security people annoy me more than Israeli security people because they are less professional and I really don’t feel they are that effective. I feel that sometimes they ask people nosy questions (I can’t believe they asked you how much money your husband makes!) just to show that they have the power to do that and to prove that they are doing something.

  5. I actually think frequent crossings result in more questions rather than less. Until you *prove* otherwise, frequent crossings are suspect, as opposed to say, someone who crosses only on the 4th of July weekend and Pesach.
    I don’t think these people are unprofessional at all, they just have a particular culture and knowledge base which laypeople are simply not privy to.

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