Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Close To The Borderline

I don't know exactly why the Border Patrol has set up shop at the Greyhound station in Rochester, NY, but there they are, with their walkie-talkies and their green uniforms and their dog.

I've been to and from Rochester maybe three times in the last month, and each time there they are, to ask if I'm a U.S. citizen, and take me at my word.

They are not without exuberance. Today, after the dog sniffed the luggage, the dog handler scratched him behind the ears, and encouraged the dog to leap into the air. The dog leapt, the snow fell, and we stood there and chuckled, sort of. The dog was so happy.

Normally they don't let you onto the bus until the guys are off it, not wanting to confuse the issues, I guess. This time when we got on they were still there, interrogating one guy. "So your parents are from Puerto Rico, and you were born in Yonkers, is that right?"

They would ask this guy stuff -- what's the name of the airport in Puerto Rico? stuff like that -- and then relay information into the cellphone.

And then, after all that build-up, they wandered off the bus, leaving the guy in question to complete his danger-filled journey to Buffalo in peace.

Yesterday I actually did cross the border on a bus. We were held up, because of the complicated citizenship issues pertaining to our Mennonite companions. One was a dual citizen; one wasn't. The immigration official was explaining it to them: "Your friend can't do the things you can. You're a dual citizen, so you can work. But if he does anything other than put his feet up and take out a beer from the fridge, he's breaking the law."

"He can do some dishes to help around the house, but that's it," she said. They seemed confused. Earlier the bus driver had been telling them about Martin Luther King Jr. This was news to them. "He gave this speech," the bus driver said, "about this dream he had."


Noko Marie said...

It always cracks me up when the border guards have to explain stuff like this to people and therefore have to drop their robot-personas.

You almost can't act like a total robot if you're asking someone, "Now, how did you and your girlfriend meet?" -- a common question when an 18-year-old kid is trying to get from Detroit to Windsor.

That is hilarious about the dishes. Do Mennonites even drink beer?

Captain Colossal said...

I don't know about the beer, but these Mennonites were smoking. Who knew?

I sometimes envision an alternate society where all these official interactions were carried on in a totally human way, where the border guard is just like, "So what the hell are you going to Windsor for anyway?"

But I will say that there's nothing creepier than the official person who mixes the robotic with the human in a particularly plastic way.