A Customs Tale

“You were in Uruguay?” asks the attractive customs officer.

“Yep. That’s right.” I say. It’s printed clearly on my customs form.

“How long were you there?”

“Um, one week.”

“What were you doing there?”

“I was on vacation.” Does he want me to say I was inciting a rebellion? I’m getting the same nervousness that I always get around authority figures.

“You were sightseeing? Alone?”

“I was with a friend.”

“What was your friend doing there?”

“She studies Latin American politics.” Okay, maybe not the best answer choice.

“Is she American?”

“Um, yes.”

“How much was the ticket?” Geez, is he grilling me about customs or trying to plan a vacation to Uruguay? I quoted him a price, that seemed stupidly high at the time. Now that I know what a crazy trip it is to the other hemisphere, I understand that it was actually too low.

“Did you pay for the ticket yourself?”

“Yep!” I’m tempted to tell him that I’m a grown-ass woman and if I want to go on vacation, I pay for it myself. But I’m feeling anxious, so I continue answering his questions, which seem increasingly irrelevant.

The last time I went through customs, I had to explain that I spent some time on a farm in Lithuania helping to plant a tree. I could have just not checked that box on the form, but I am honest to a fault. But the most subversive thing I did on this trip was drink too much wine and say that I didn’t think the US deserved to win the world cup. Why was I getting the first degree?

“What do you do? Where do you work?” Wait, was he grilling me about immigration, or trying to ask me out?

After explaining my incredibly complicated job and company situation, becoming increasingly nervous for no good reason, he stamps my passport and tells me to have a nice day.

“Wait! Why didn’t you take my finger print or scan my eyes? Isn’t that a thing that happens? Do you want my phone number? I know a great place you can stay in Montevideo! We should get a drink next time I’m in Los Angeles! Is some crazy political shit about to go down between the US and Uruguay?” I said as I lingered at the customs counter.

Except the last part didn’t happen. I grabbed my passport and customs form in search of a bathroom, wondering if he knew something I didn’t about the political climate, or if this is some sexist thing about women traveling alone, or if most customs interactions are this intense and I’d just flown by in the past. Unable to determine this on my own, I sauntered off into the baggage claim.


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