Saturday, September 7, 2013

Border Inspection

I should identify with those videos on youtube where some conspiracy nut drives up to a border inspection with a camera rolling and a border patrol man or woman walks up and asks, "Are you an American Citizen?" to which the narrator says, "Am I being detained?"
Then it becomes a Laurel and Hardy dialogue.
"Are you an American Citizen?"
"Am I free to go?"
"Sir..."
"AM I being detained?"
"Are you an American Citizen?"
"I don't have to answer any questions without a lawyer present...am I being detained?"
"Where do you live?"
"Am I free to go?"
"Where are you coming from?"
"I have a constitutional right not to answer any questions without a lawyer present. May I go?"
"Are you an American Citizen?"
Silence
"Sir, are you American Citizen? I need to determine if you are American Citizen, this is a border inspection..."
"Am I being detained?"
"Are you an American Citizen?"
"Am I free to go?"

And you can watch videos where this goes on for ten or twenty minutes. And I should be rooting for the narrator for making the border patrol squirm. But I don't approve at all. It seems so completely petty. The narrator either has a thick New York accent, is a completely grey hair hippie, or otherwise looks and talks and acts like an American Citizen. There is no dispute that he's a citizen so this whole argument is pedantic.


I guess I shouldn't care and I'm sure no one else except Border dwelling Americans even know what I'm talking about. You have toll booths; we have a guy with an assault rifle ask us to open our trunks. But I really don't see the point in asserting a constitutional right in the middle of a desert road where it is 121 degrees and line of cars is forming behind you and you are basically refusing to admit you are American because that is some kind of violation.

Obligatory Side Anecdote #1: I knew someone in Santa Cruz whose entire life was basically jumping through hoops because he refused to acknowledge his Social Security number. He had this lengthy argument he would shout from his soap box around the free food table that it was some violation of basic human liberty...so his whole day was spent dealing with the alternative to using your social security number to identify yourself. I mean, it can be done, but it should only be attempted if you love red tape and asking secretaries for forms that haven't been printed in 30 years and no one knows where they are. This became his personal vendetta against the system and he would say proudly, "My drivers license doesn't have a picture. All it says is my weight and hair and eye color. It took two years to get a drivers license with no picture."
"But sir," Oggy queried, "I appreciate your individuality, but what did that accomplish?"
"A lot! Every time a cop asks me for my ID, and that happens a few times a day, he has to read my physical description and confirm it is actually me. Think about that!"
"I see." said Oggy wiping vegan soup from his mustache, his eyes dreamily following Bella as she walked obliviously past him, smiling, stroking the dirty hair of a stick thin runaway child from San Jose. Oggy's chin trembled in anticipation and passionate agony. He could have a family with her, they could raise them without ID or systemic abuses of liberty. They could live in mud huts and bake bread.
"Well! I've got a court date in an hour," said the man with no social security number. "I need to go prep my case." And he lumbered away.

I actually work with former border patrol employees and these are not people I'd call "establishment" men. They are trained to act tough when they are on the clock because that's the job. It pays good. If you aren't in the oil field or working at a federal detention center or prison, then the Border Patrol is the best career around this desert. It pays. It is stable work. They raise families. NONE of these men and women are gung ho about destroying civil liberties. That's pure projection. If you think their idea of an exciting day is asking Americans if they are Americans then you really have a far too big egotistical reflection.

I really should record a video of how I deal with border inspections because it's a comedy act every single time. And I actually know it's going to be funny before it happens and then when I finally get there it's infinitely more funny than I expected as random things happen I couldn't predict. Take today for instance...

I drive 50 miles to the bank to deal with the seizure of my identity by radio control car racers in New Jersey. The idiots truly tried to have stolen property mailed to their house. OH GOD PEOPLE ARE DUMB. They stole my visa card info, made a new paypal account with a new shipping address in New Jersey and it still set off fraud alarms in the bank and the business. $1000 worth of purchases from my checking account that is sweat and blood in the oil field. YOU MOTHERFUCKERS WILL GET NOTHING AND IF I FIND YOU I'M GOING TO THROW MY PIT BULL ON YOUR BALLS.

So, that unpleasant business taken care of, I buy some underwear because the only place to buy clothes where I live (Big Tuna, Tx from Wild at Heart) is a Family Dollar. Then I buy the coolest pair of ranch boot jeans that I've ever seen...and a string tie like sheriffs wore in 1860. Then I go to a tattoo shop but chicken out...and then eat some tacos...get my palm cowboy hat shaped for a little more shade...and ride my moped almost to Mexico. I was throwing money around because I didn't think it was fair some fuckwad in the Garden State gets to go on a spending spree with money I bleed for while I pinch pennies to plan for knee surgery. I bought some socks and tried on some side zip boots that didn't have enough character for Oggy's current attitude. I played a few games of Guitar Hero at the arcade but accidentally set it to fret right handed so all the color codes were opposite to the way they should've been. Etc. Etc, then some work gloves and some material for this insane shade I'm building for my van...a whole mobile carport that has the potential to be something I patent and sell as a business...which is another story.

Then I go back home, 50 miles on a bee line through a wasted landscape....think Dances With Wolves with no wolves or horses or people...and I managed not to kill a roadrunner today. And I coast up to the border inspection...having forgotten my camera before I left I'll try to describe it for you:

I roll up to stop like 8 inches before the feet of a border dude on the passenger side. He doesn't move an inch but waves me forward the last 8 inches. Really? Come on dude! I creep forward as slow as possible until he is directly facing me through the passenger window. He indicates that he wants it rolled down.
"They didn't have power windows in 1969!"
"What?"
He can't hear me over the V8 sucking down gas like John Belushi drinking beer in Animal House. And my dual side mufflers sound like ten Harley Davidson motorcycles.
"I SAID THEY DIDN'T HAVE POWER WINDOWS IN 1969!"
He tries to open the passenger door. It's locked and he fumbles around with the back barn door which is also locked.
The last guy actually walked to the driver's side of the van when he realized I couldn't reach the passenger window. This guy is too good for that. He points to the lock that I've manufactured out of Whale bone.
"Ok. Hold your horses," I say and unbuckle my deadly lap belt and unlock the door.

Mind you, he has no right to inspect my vehicle. None. I have to be detained with probable cause before he can search and at that point he doesn't have to ask me. See? If a cop asks you that's because he has no probable cause...and if he has probable cause then he doesn't have to ask you. He's fishing for idiots, basically. And you don't have to answer any questions without a lawyer present. Hey, I didn't write the rules! I have to stop at this checkpoint but I don't have to do anything after that. I understand what the activists are going through their song and dance for. Since they are citizens there is nothing the border police can do to them. NOTHING. So, I could roll the window down half an inch and ask, "Am I being detained?" and see where that gets me, or I could let him into my world, which is infinitely more punishing.

He opens the door before I have a chance to grab all the garbage that I usually throw into the passenger foot well. It all falls onto his feet and the Taco Bell napkins blow into the desert. Trying to catch some of it, he accidentally grabs this filthy blue plastic tarp I have over the wood stove when it rains but recently it sits on the passenger seat. He pulls it and also pulls out the box of all my old used transmission parts that I've been saving because I don't know what to do with them. Clutches, a modulator, bands, drums, gaskets, o-rings etc all tumble onto his boots. He hits his head on the door and his broad cowboy hat falls off and blows away. Then I realize I had forgotten to put the van in park when I got out of the seat to unlock the passenger door and I'm rolling forward and about to run him over. I leap back into the seat and throw it into park, sweating in the 114 degree sunlight. I wish I could say there was a soundtrack to this insanity but my auxiliary battery recently exploded so I have no power for my ghetto computer system speakers. Only the rumble of my van accompanies our conversation.
The guy tries to get everything back in the van. I don't help because it's too comical watching him try to adjust to HOW I LIVE ALMOST FOR 5 STRAIGHT YEARS EVERY SINGLE DAY ONE CHAOTIC MOMENT AFTER ANOTHER.
Finally, he looks at me through dark glasses and scans the back of the van, it's admittedly a total mess right now. Beyond messy. It looks like the Unabomber lives there but instead of pipe bombs he's building a wooden time machine to return to 1973.
I try to break the ice, "How are you today, Hoss?"
"Ok." He's breathing hard.
"Any excitement? Drug busts? I see you got an x-ray machine. I've got back pain like you wouldn't believe. Does it work on spines?"
"So, you all alone in here?" He scans the disaster area near my wood stove...does a double take when he sees the rusting stove.
"Alone? Shit, I got a list of women's names a mile long who want to roll with me. Who wouldn't want a piece of this?"
I hold up the mini wool hooked rug of a pumpkin but his look tells me he was really asking if I was hiding Guatemalan cotton pickers under my floorboards, not if I am a bachelor.
The border patrol guy inspects my dashboard where there is something that looks like an alien insect. I can tell he's beginning to think he might be exposed to toxic chemicals and he has his hand right where my ass crack was when I had to sit around naked to stay cool those many years ago in Mexico. I'm thinking this and grinning but the Border patrol guy swallows hard. He then asks me the question I know is coming and I'm ready with my best response...
"Are you an American Citizen?"
"Is Miley Cyrus a trashy skank with no ass?"
I don't get much of a laugh from that remark.
"I guess she is." He grins and looks at my album cover of "American Pop"
"This van is something else."
I give him my standard reply, "A couple more payments and it's all mine."
"That's a good thing. So, where are you coming from?"
"I had to buy some more underwear at the Mall. And I got too fat for my old ranch pants so I replaced those and my dignity. Found a vintage songbook with the tune "Xanadu" in it. And someone stole my identity so I had to deal with that at the bank. You know. Regular old Saturday in Texas!"
"Ok, Sir. Sorry about dropping all your engine parts."
"I'm glad they're gone. I rebuilt the tranny last spring." I rev the engine and wink like a teenager trapped in a 42 year old decaying body.
He nods. "Y'all have a good day. Drive safe."
"Keep up the good work, Sir."

And off I go.

Now, isn't that a more interesting exchange than, "Am I free to go?"
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.