Returning from Baja.
The exhaust gathered as we waited in line to cross back into the US. After a number of turn arounds that resulted from blending google maps and sparsely posted signs, we were about to reach the entry point.
“Where the heck is this place?!” we almost resigned to continue east 100 miles to the Arizona border crossing since this one was giving us so much trouble.
But we made it. Some temporary signs had put us off track, but a traffic cop finally directed our line of cars to the entry as we cross crossed with the line of cars that were trying to make it to the Mexican highway. This is highly illogical. I thought, but whatever, I was really tired of driving by the Tijuana airport and here we were in line.
We reached the part where the lanes narrow and you pull out your passport to show the machines. Two CBP agents were standing in the way though. One large and gruff looking guy, who probably barely passed his mile test, lifted his arm and motioned to us with his two fingers in the shape of bunny ears. I didn’t do anything to his command, so he did it again.
I looked at Lauren, “What is that?” She shrugged. I looked back at the patrol agent. He made his bunny ears signal again.
“What?” I made a face. He made the bunny ears sign. I rolled down the window.
“What?” I said again.
“Your passports.” he said.
“Oh, ok,” I replied and held up our passports, displaying that they were US. I rolled the window back up.
“Since when does that signal mean anything at all?” we rolled our eyes and continued to the next step of nonsense. Nothing beat a little US Customs and Border Patrol interrogation after an innocent trip to Mexico. We pulled up to the toll booth-like questioning spot where I would hand over our passports for inspection. Mexico didn’t ask for anything on the drive in, so there was no information to be gleaned from them other than our basic information.
“Where do you live?” the CBP guy asked without looking at me. The agent was eyeing my teal Camry with mud splattered along the side.
“San Diego,” I said as I handed him our passports.
“Uh huh,” he said. “What were you doing in Mexico?” he said with his cop-like suspicious tone, still not paying attention to my reaction.
“We went down to surf for New Years,” I replied.
“New Years?” he said. The investigation began. “Long time down there.”
I look at Lauren, trying to count up how many days we had been down there.
She mouthed to me, “a week?”
“A week,” I said back to her, but loud enough for him to hear. It was January 7th.
He had already asked me to pop the trunk, before he could realize it had only been seven days.
It’s been a week since New Years. He must have thought. Goddammit this month is never going to end.
January drag was real. He tapped the side of the driver door, like a simple knock was going to reveal tons of cocaine smuggled in through our car interior, before handing us back our passports and letting us continue back to the US.
I rolled up the window as the breeze flew in from peeling away.
“Yes, sir, a week in Mexico. It’s called a vacation,” Lauren joked.
“You know CBP earns plenty of it!” I said, fully away we were not making fun of someone whose profession didn’t allow for vacation days.
“He didn’t even look at us!” Lauren pointed out. “We could have had a body under the towels back there, but he was too busy making sure there were surfboards in the trunk. What a waste of everyone’s time.”
We continued home reflecting on the status of our national security, Lauren mostly upset that crossing via car did not result in her passport getting stamped.
“Build a wall? How about teach the people guarding the gates some behavioral analysis.”
“Hard to do when you aren’t observing the person you’re talking to.”
“At least Mexican authorities don’t pretend they have any information about whatever is coming through their borders.”
The route back had slightly more enhanced security than what we had experienced driving into Mexico, however, it didn’t leave either of us very impressed.
Caroline is the author of Fairly Smooth Operator: My Life Occasionally at the Tip of the Spear, now available on Amazon. She is PhD student at the University of San Diego and CIA and Coast Guard veteran.