Ended With Military Precision

, , , , | Working | September 11, 2018

(It is the early 2000s. During this time, at the border crossing all you need is your driver’s license. My parents recently moved to a seaside town in Mexico for their semi-retirement. My siblings and I are visiting my parents over the Christmas holiday. I am still in college, while my siblings graduated, but they are able to come celebrate Christmas with us. My father and we three siblings have last-minute Christmas shopping, so we decide to cross the bolder. My father and brother have the fast pass to bypass the traffic, but my sister and I don’t, so we have to walk across the border. I am wearing a typical college student outfit: my university hoodie and jeans. My siblings and I are half-Japanese, half-Caucasian-American, but I look more Caucasian than Asian. My father is Japanese, so I have an extremely popular Japanese last name. After waiting for about forty minutes to get to the front of the line, my sister and I arrive. We wait for the border control guard to gesture for us to come over one at a time. My sister, being older, insists that I go first. I show the border control guard my driver’s license.)

Border Control Guard: *looks at my license and, without looking at me, asks* “Why are you coming to the US?”

Me: “I still have to do Christmas shopping, and I’m visiting my parents in Mexico.”

(He looks up at me, then looks down again, and at me again. He smirks.)

Border Control Guard: “[Asian Last Name]?”

Me: *answering the same question from people I had all my life* “Yes. My father is Asian, and my mother is Caucasian-American.”

Border Control Guard: *tilts his head, confused* “How?”

(My initial response is to be sarcastic and say, “Sex,” but I don’t want to get into trouble.)

Me: “Well, my parents fell in love, and then they got married, and then had me, and my siblings. My sister is over there.”

(I wave to my sister, and she waves back, concerned as I am taking a long time. The guard looks at my sister, who does have more Asian features than I, but the guard shakes his head and looks at me.)

Border Control Guard: “Um… But how?”

(I’m getting a bit annoyed, but trying my best not to show it.)

Me: “My parents first had my brother, then my sister, and then eventually me.”

(The border control guard starts to tap my driver’s license like he is holding it hostage. He snaps his fingers and asks:)

Border Control Guard: “What is your nationality?”

Me: “American and Japanese.”

Border Control Guard: “How?”

Me: “My mother is Caucasian-American, and my father is Japanese.”

(The border control guard leans back and rubs his chin and continues to tap. He’s trying to figure me out, or trying to catch me in a lie.)

Border Control Guard: “Where were you born?”

Me: “Tokyo, Japan.”

Border Control Guard: “What?! How is that possible?”

Me: *thinking it’s not his business* “My parents met and got married in the states, but my father had to transfer to Japan for business. So, my parents packed up and moved to Japan, and a few years later they had me.”

Border Control Guard: “But how?!”

(The border control guard leans back again, tapping my license — I am worried that it might get damaged — trying to figure out how to answer his “But how?”s without getting my family, or me, into trouble. At this point I notice even the other guards looking at him, wondering why it is taking so long. I glance at my sister, who looks worried. I am also worried about my dad and brother, who have already crossed at this point, waiting for us, wondering what has happened to us.)

Border Control Guard: *leans forward with a smirk* “Was your mother in the military?”

(Neither of my parents is in the military. My grandfather on my maternal side was in the Navy, so what I say next is technically not a lie, and I just want to go.)

Me: “Yes. Exactly. We are a military family. May I go?”

Border Control Guard: *beams, hands my license over, and nods* “Yes. You may go!”

(I waited for my sister to cross. She crossed without any additional questions, and we went to the waiting spot where my father and brother were. In the car ride, I told them the story. The family in-joke became that we were in the military, since that is the only way interracial couples can meet and have kids.)

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Green Cards Put You In The Red

, , , , | Working | December 13, 2017

(I have gone to visit a friend in Canada. I live in New York but am originally from Germany. I received my green card when I was 11 and at the time I am 20. I hand the border agent my green card, driver’s license, and German passport.)

Agent: “This doesn’t look like you.” *referring to the picture of 11-year old me on my green card* “However these two do.” *referring to the pictures on my driver’s license and passport which are much more recent*

Me: “I’m sorry, I was 11. All the information matches across all three forms of identification, does it not?”

Agent: “Yes but this doesn’t look like you. Why do you not have a more recent picture on here?”

Me: “Because it hasn’t expired yet.”

Agent: “Well, you should update it anyway.”

Me: “It’s $450 to renew a green card; I’m not going to be doing it early if I don’t need to.”

Agent: “I just don’t know if this is really you or not.”

(After a bit more back and forth of him not understanding why I wasn’t willing to pay $450 to renew my green card when I didn’t have to yet, he looked in the trunk of my car and had me pull over and go inside for them to take my fingerprints.)

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Leave All Your Crap In Canada

| Right | May 12, 2017

(I suppose I’m the idiot here. I’m driving my RV into Canada to visit a friend. After checking my passport, etc.)

Customs Official: “And is there anything in your RV that will stay in Canada when you leave?”

Me: *frozen with confusion*

Customs Official: “Like a gift?”

Me: “Oh! Yes!” *I list what I’m bringing my friend*

Customs Official: “Um, what were you thinking when I asked that?”

Me: “The contents of my RV’s toilet holding tank?”

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Not Getting Any Kick Out Of It

| Related | January 22, 2017

(My friend wants a particular specialty costume/foreign clothing item and finds it can only be easily obtained in the USA. I offer to pick one up for him while on a short shopping trip from Canada. I take my cousin with me. Coming back, I find that the item doesn’t come with a full receipt, so the border guard is looking it up online to verify its value and it is taking him awhile to find it.)

Cousin: “Well, I hope [Friend] appreciates you picking this up for him!”

(I am horrified, because my step-sister had recently gotten in trouble for bringing an item back for her dad as a gift and had paid massive duty fees when they found it was not for her own “personal use and consumption.”)

Me: “Oh, no, I wanted that for ME.”

(I am hoping she will get the hint and stop talking. But no.)

Cousin: *loudly* “But I thought it was for [Friend], since we stopped and got the money for it, and now his stupid [Item] is what’s keeping us!”

(Trying to shut her up, I lightly kick her under the customs counter.)

Cousin: *turning and SCREECHING at me* “Did you just kick me under the counter?!”

Me: “No.”

Cousin: “Yes, you DID. You KICKED ME!”

(I figure we are going to get in trouble; you don’t screw around with border agents. As it turns out, the item in question is not covered by the “personal use and consumption” rule so I just pay my tax and leave. Once we get out in the car and drove away I explain to my cousin.)

Cousin: “Well, I didn’t know!”

Me: “I know you didn’t know, but the NEXT time someone kicks you under the table anywhere, assume there is a good reason, and GRAB A CLUE AND SHUT IT!”

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Bordering On Someone’s Ownership

| Friendly | May 31, 2016

(We’re on a family road trip and my brother’s friend is along, and his parents wrote a letter authorizing my parents to take him to another country. There are two adults and one minor named Jones, two adults named Wilson, and one minor named Smith.)

Guard: “Can I see your IDs, please?”

Dad: “Here you go.”

(The guard looks through them for a bit.)

Guard: “And who does Mr. Smith belong to?”

Mom: “The people who wrote this letter.”

Guard: “You don’t know how happy I am to hear that. Go on, folks!”

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