Yeah, I know. That’s their job. But they always put me on edge.
It’s not that I am carrying $30,000 in cash. If only. And, no, I don’t have a Canadian-grown apricot rolling on the floorboard of the passenger seat. No booze. No guns. Not even a plastic butter knife.
But the guard always lingers, stares me in the eye and tempts me to look away or shift in my seat. Any subtle expression of guilt to pull me over and drag me into an interrogation room with stale air and a floodlight beaming in my face. But then, maybe I’ve seen too many crime procedurals.
The cause for suspicion? Well, it starts with the obvious observation. There is no one in the passenger seat, no one in the back seat.
“Traveling alone?” she asks.
“And why is that?” No joke. She asks. I’m tempted to say, “How long you got? Shall we grab a coffee?” but I’ve been coached since I was a little kid to say as little as possible.
“It’s just the way it is,” I answer.
She nods. I defensively read into her gesture. It figures.
“How long are you in the U.S.?”
“Are you meeting anyone?”
And here I get blunt. “Of course not.”
She dares not nod this time. But my mindreading comes into play again. At least he knows.
She returns my passport. “Have a nice trip.” She doesn’t mean it. She probably doesn’t even believe it’s possible. But I’ve made it through. I cleared the border hurdle. A minor victory.
And as I drive off, the excitement of the trip takes a ding. Traveling alone. Three weeks. Meeting no one. Yeah, that sounds sad.
Did she stamp anything in my passport? “Loser” in all caps? I can check when I fill up for cheaper American gas. But, really, they don’t stamp passports anymore and I watched her hands, wary that she might draw a weapon. Okay, I’ve watched too many films with terrorist plots, too.
We had a chat, more questions than I wanted, with a clear focus on my hopeless single status, and then she sent me off, wishing me well yet leaving me anything but.
Mom in a uniform.