To Serve And Delay
Why me? Why do these things always happen to me. Canada/U.S. relations hit a new low last night when I touched down in Miami en route to Orlando from Panama. I know our dollar's worth more than the American currency in the current economic smack down but, hey, do you have to take it out on me?
So let me back up a bit. We left the condo in Bijoa Tuesday morning at 11:15, well in time for the two and-a-half hour drive to the airport. We made good time, traffic was good, we didn't get lost. We were humming our way through downtown Panama when from behind us we hear sirens. So we move over to the right lane. All of a sudden three police motorcycles whip by us in the left then one, whish, two, whish, not three, four, five but six dark windowed SUV's whip by us...and I mean they were moving. I'm thinking they're either shooting an instalment of Criminal Minds in Panama or that's the President's motorcade. Well, bringing up the rear were two guys in army fatigues on a motorcycle with the guy on the back extending his arm, pointing at us to STAY BACK. Hey, who's gonna argue with some guy in sunglasses armed with a sub-machine gun.
So that was exciting. Little did I know it set the tone for what was going to happen later in the day.
The American Airlines flight departed on time from Panama on it's three hour flight to Miami. I deplaned all set for the steeplechase marathon of Immigration, collect bags, Customs, re-check bags, security (oh, boy a pat-down) and determine the gate of my next flight on to Orlando. Shouldn't be a problem, Hell, I've got three hours. How long can it take?
So I get in the "Visitors" line up at Immigration. Things are moving slowly but surely. I reach the agent, who's friendly enough. He asks me how I am "Fine, thanks, how are you?" He asks me where I'm coming from "Panama" Nice there? "Great but hot" Bringing any money into the country? "Not much" ...pause... sir, this is purely routine but would you step back against that wall, an officer will be along in a moment? I feel myself going down, down, spiralling uncontrollably into a dream - a nightmare. What did he just say? Wait a minute, what's this about? Shit!
It's not like I was singing ICE, ICE Baby as I approached Mr Customs Man. But maybe they're gonna bust me for that five pound bag of Panamanian coffee (Yeah, I said coffee) I've got safely stashed in my golf bag. Five seconds later a female agent escorts me to THE ROOM. I'm shocked when I enter. She tells me to have a seat and wait for my name to be called. Oh, sit in here, with these other 100 people?! I felt like I was in a holding tank. Remember Alice's Restaurant. Remember the Group W bench? Let me help you...
...and there was all kinds of meannasty ugly looking people on the bench there.Mother rapers. Father stabbers.Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right thereon the bench next to me!And they was mean and nasty and uglyand horrible crime-type guyssitting on the bench next to me...So I sat there, not half-an hour, not an hour but two hours before they called me. Luckily they let me keep my clothes on, not like in Arlo Guthrie's story. The guy asks me if I know a place called Matinoba. I'm thinking what the hell is this guy about? A geography test? I tell him I've never heard of it. His partner corrects him "Manitoba". Oh, sure it's a province in Canada. "Did you ever go to prison in Manitoba?" What? You've got to be kidding. No. Never. "Ever been arrested in Manitoba?" No (nervous laughter). "Ever been arrested?" No. "Hmm...okay give me a couple of minutes." I guess they thought I was one of those Father stabbing rapers. But they seemed to clear things up in about five minutes and let me go. Not so much as a "sorry". I collected my luggage, hit Customs, re-checked the bags, got a pat-down (meh, nothing to write home about), and made my connecting flight. And I got to see the U.S. Immigration system - your tax dollars at work - up close and personal. Welcome to the U.S, eh!