The Time I Almost Peaced the Customs Agent (or, Home Again)

Guess what. We finally made it to Buenos Aires. The bad news is that my body by then had partly succumbed to the stress of intervening for “cuatro familias, nueve personas” and having all sorts of riff-raff cough on me. Add a few shakes of lack of sleep and you’ve got a recipe for sniffles and a sore throat.

But. We made it. Most of the time, I didn’t even know what day it was, what the date was, and sometimes even where I was. I started speaking Portuguese when I should’ve been doing Spanish (Castellano) and took to  mumbling in Spanish when I was pacing the airport. I was tired enough to forget who I was. People I meet asked me where I was from and I had to pause. Ah! Los Estados Unidos… 

Speaking of the US, there was a customs lady we went through upon returning that looked so grumpy my mom joked that we’d have interpol on us (me) again. Moms went first. Document inspection. Picture. Fingerprint. Stamp. Next. Brief grilling on where we went, why, etc. It was 6am.I hadn’t slept on the plane. I whispered to moms that the lady looked intense.

Are we allowed to smile? I asked moms. I recalled that when I took my passport photo, I received explicit instructions from my photographer (who didn’t know why) that I couldn’t smile. I told moms that and she told me it was because when they posted passport photos of terrorists, they didn’t want them to look too friendly. My passport photo ended up looking like I’m smirking since I have trouble following explicit directions. I don’t think that’s the reason, I replied to her as I stepped up to bat. For some reason. I was determined to smile. I was happy. Why shouldn’t I? And if I couldn’t, she’d make me retake. End of story, right? And I was pretty sure I’d heard some other agent say, Smile for the camera! to someone else. I wasn’t flying completely blind, you know.

So I took a step to my right, looked into the webcam, tip toed just a little and gave it my most chipper grin. I was SERIOUSLY so very close to flashing the peace sign by my chin. I mean, so close it really surprises me that it didn’t happen.

Or maybe it did. Because the grumpy lady? She immediately burst into laughter. After that it was like the polar ice caps had melted and we were swimming in the resulting lakes like we were the best of friends. Told her a bit about the trip, she welcomed me home, and all was well in the world.

There’s so much of this world I still want to see. So much to learn. So many stories to hear. But for now, I’ve welcomed myself back stateside by getting on another plane (domestic), saying hi to Hans and Janiqua, prepping to get the backs of the hands talk-through (not this time though) and listening to the fireworks outside while thinking about America. More on that later, too.

Over and out.


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