Meta: Immigration Bloopers

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Even as a permanent resident, when entering the country it's standard procedure for Immigration to ask you why you left. Here are the last two conversations I had:

Customs and Immigration, Detroit Metro-Worth, June 2005
Immigration: What were you doing in Japan?
Moi: I'm an anthropologist, I was doing fieldwork with people with disabilities.
Immigration: Disabilities? Like me?
Moi: [Peering over counter at his legs. He isn't in a wheelchair, no braces on his legs. He is kind of overweight... I give him a quizzical look]
Immigration: [Turning very red, he mumbles] umm... I have a bad knee.. [he mumbles some more, then STAMPS my passport and hands it back] Welcome back.

The kicker, though, was the last time I came through:

Customs and Immigration, Detroit, Metro-Worth, April 2005
Customs: What were you doing in Japan?
Moi: I'm an anthropologist.
Customs: [She looks at my large suitcases with a worried look] You don't have any bones in there, do you?
Moi: Bones? ... Oh... no.... I'm a cultural anthropologist not a forensic anthropologist.
Customs: [Looks even more worried] You have bacterial cultures?
Moi: Hurriedly, No, no, no, I study human cultures. Like Japanese culture.
Customs: OK. Welcome back.

Well, I won't make any bones about it, but at least they didn't think I was a spy.


These customs folks are a hoot when they're not being down right scary. My most amusing was crossing back from Quebec to Vermont. The US Customs officer asked what I’d been doing in Canada. I explained that I’d dropped off our daughter who was at McGill University. He then asked where I lived, to which I responded New Hampshire. He looked at his monitor that showed my license plate and asked, ‘why then do you have Iowa plates?’ I explained that I was using our son’s car while he was in school there. He said, ‘well, I won’t even bother asking if you’ve got anything to declare since you spend all your money on tuition.’ I just smiled and drove on.

I love your web site, photos, gear head collection and history!

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on June 17, 2005 7:32 PM.

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