Heading out of Creston, I grabbed a deli sandwich and a coke at a convenience store and headed south. It’s not far from Creston to the border, and I was there before I knew it.
Was it the beard? Was it the Deli sandwich? I spent quite a while in customs. I pulled up to the window, happy to see that there was no line. The customs agent started very politely asking me where I had been and what I was bringing back with me, and asked me for ID. I pulled the shirt from the passenger seat where I had had my passport. It wasn’t there. Hm. I pushed the winnebaggo out of the way to check the seat for the passport. Not there. Uh oh. Wait a minute.. it’s in my pocket. Whew.
The sandwich has beef in it. It’s not coming into the US. I’m hungry. “Is there a place I can sit and eat my sandwich here?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. “park over there and bring your sandwich into the office. You can eat it while we search your car.” So there it was. I was in secondary. I wasn’t in a hurry; I knew that getting searched was likely. I suppose if I was a customs agent I would send people like me into secondary. This way I got to eat my sandwich as well.
In the office another guy gave me a more intensive grilling. Where I’d been, and so on, then a very long list of questions about what I was bringing back with me. In the end, the sum total of the things I had purchased in Canada and brought back over the border: a deli sandwich and a coke. “No souvenirs?” No. “Nothing?” No. Finally I’m allowed to sit and eat my sandwich. Mmmm. Good sandwich.
From where I sit I can see the agent outside, pulling the bags out of my car. Out comes the bag with everything from my bathroom. (I’ll do an episode on packing soon). I hear the echo of the customs officer: “Any prescription drugs?” “No,” I had said. But what if there were prescription drugs in there? At such times, the most inconsequential worries are somehow magically magnified. Like they’re not going to let me back into the country if there was some old penicillin I missed when I was throwing everything away. so I was nervous for no reason. But did they notice I was nervous? Was that suspicious?
The woman searching the car moved on to another bag, and I returned to my sandwich. Finally she was done, but I had to stay for a while longer. They were running some kind of check on me in one of those new-fangled databases of subversives and no-goodnicks.
Lighter by one sandwich, I pulled out of customs and into northern Idaho. Now I’m back in the good ‘ol USA, and it’s nice to be here.