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Virginia
by Mathew Kumar
09052006

 



Getting into America is a funny thing now.

I’m sure the majority of you reading this are Americans. Don’t worry, lads; I’m singling you out for no reason beyond a logistical one -- as otherwise you’ll probably never quite understand what it’s like to get into your country in this post-9/11 (NEV4R FORGET) world.

Despite it being earlier than early, the airport felt like an airport looks when you’re watching the news and they’re discussing the terrible delays that have led to the airport being busier than busy.

Sleepy eyed, my Sony Vaio MP3 player is kicking it with Morrissey’s last album. I’m feeling contrary, standing in this queue with bleary American businessmen: sighing, yawning, looking at their watches, reading USA Today.

"America, It brought you the hamburger," he croons, as we shuffle forward, tickets stamped, handed a confusing mass of immigration forms, to be filled in before reaching the next security check-in point, still before immigration.

"Well America you know where, You can shove your hamburger", his voice continues, as I’m told I’ve filled in the wrong forms (I’m not a Canadian, you see), and return to fill in the same forms, In a slightly different color, with perhaps a new tick box here or there ("Were you a member of the National Socialist Party between 1939-1941?", "Have you ever kissed a man?", "Do you think that George Bush doesn’t care about black people?") and hand them back to the same, bored woman.

"And don't you wonder, why in Estonia they say, hey you, big fat pig, you fat pig, you fat pig..." [4] resonates as I enter the massive queue that will soon take me to American soil, which I assume is signified by the cheap plaster Statue of Liberty, whose face seems far more terse than I remember.

"US-VISIT", is emblazoned upon each interrogation (sorry, immigration) booth. "Department of Homeland Security: Keeping America’s Doors Open and Our Nation Secure". I find it hard to stifle my laughter at this beautiful piece of doublespeak. Now I know why our beautiful lady Liberty looks so angry. This grim little room, our portal to America before we’ve even stepped on a plane (doubtless to save them the hassle of sending us back, once we’ve got there and they’ve found out we once gave money to Greenpeace or something) looks like it’s been set up to do anything except keep America’s doors open. Hell, they’re locked solid, but maybe they’ll squeeze them open for you if you buck up your ideas, son. It is a room for us to poop our pants for fear we won’t be let in, ready to pledge allegiance to a giant picture of lizard-Cheney eating a baby while indentured servants wipe his ass with the constitution (mostly the bits about free speech, free press and free assembly -- oh, the bits about privacy too).[5]

Canadian, British, or just plain not-American, we all go through it. The length of the discussions are probably why the line is so big, and by the time I’ve reached front of the queue, well, I’d like to say I was a wreck, but really I was just jumpy. Enough people had floated the idea that this was still a case of mistaken identity, mistaken for some other Torontoist, one that is quite clearly an ‘unlawful combatant’ and therefore not the kind of person to be troubled with the protection of the Geneva Convention, oh no.

So, you try explaining to a very grim man that you’re a Scot, living on a working visa in Canada, visiting America for a free trip to see modeling and simulation companies, to ostensibly write an article, for a publication. But, really you confide, possibly foolishly, you’re just taking a trip.

Tripping over my words, he seemed only barely satisfied with having scanned my finger prints and taken my picture, to be lost, I’m sure, in some kind of a gigantic database. No sign of a ‘have a nice trip’, either.

[Next: Chapter Three]


 

[Chapter Two/One]

[Interlude]

[Chapter Three]

[Chapter Six]

[Chapter Seven]

[Chapter Eight]