My amazing weekend in Mexico came to a screeching halt just as I was re-entering the United States this afternoon. I had so carefully packed my passport and my daughter’s birth certificate, but somehow I had completely forgotten that I would also need my green card to re-enter the country.
This is not my first border crossing. And it’s not like being a non-U.S. Citizen is something new for me. So I don’t really know what was up with that.
Off I gallivanted to Mexico, blissfully ignorant of the doom that awaited me until we pulled up to the guard station after an hour and a half of waiting and trying not to buy things from the vendors that patrol the border lines. It was at this point that I looked over at my friend Virginia’s green card and went, “Ohhhhhhh….”
If it hadn’t been for my hero of a husband, who jumped in the car and drove for 2 hours to bring me my green card, I would still be there. Because even though they can easily look up my information in the system, with or without the Alien Identification Number that I memorized years ago for just such an occasion as this, and even though the border guards themselves were completely convinced that I was not a criminal or a terrorist or anything other than an absent-minded middle-aged woman, they said the point was that I just could not come into the country without the proper documentation in hand.
Unless, that is, I paid them a “waiver fee” of $595. This fee would be a one-time thing, and if it turned out I had actually LOST the card, I would then have to pay an additional $450 for a replacement card. I am sure that somewhere up the chain of command, this line of reasoning makes sense to someone.
A friendly border guard also advised me that it would take more than two hours to do the paperwork, considering that there was another forgetful woman ahead of me with the same problem. He posited that my husband stood a good chance, given the fact that traffic would be lighter during the Chargers game in San Diego, of getting there sooner than they could process me and my $595 fee.
So Alan jumped in the car and headed south. And I waited on a metal chair that was just a couple of inches too high for my short legs, which meant I either had to dangle my feet, or sit slumped down on the chair and put one toe on the floor. Needless to say, my legs took turns falling asleep.
I hadn’t packed any books for the weekend, figuring that there would be no time to sit and read while on a mission trip, and my phone died after the first 30 minutes, so I just had to sit there and deal with the realization of my worst fear – the Fear of Having Nothing To Read.
I did have my camera, and as I had this blog in mind, I was about to take a photo of the waiting room, when my eyes lit on a giant sign outside the window that said, “No Photography.”
Not wanting to tempt fate, I dutifully put the camera away.
You may have surmised, given the publication of this blog, that I made it home okay. I did. I survived. It wasn’t the end of the world. And while I didn’t really get a chance to converse with anyone else in the waiting room, given their ignorance of English and my ignorance of Spanish, I did manage to give a cough drop to a very sick older lady who should have been home in bed, but was apparently being brought to a doctor in the States by her adult children. She was wearing her house slippers. Her cough was painful, and when I handed her the cough drop her son was so grateful that I had reached out to her instead of moving away from her, it made my 2 hours on the chair worth it. Because as annoying as my wait in that room was, I can’t imagine how stressful it was for them.