Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tales From the Bridge III

So I have to start this off with some really exciting news. And I wish I could have some great, creative way to do so, but it's not happening for me today so I am just going to come right out and say it.

Ray and I are expecting a baby! I'm due early next year and we are both over the moon with joy. BUT, I sort of despise pregnancy. Shocker. I'm already pretty sensitive and emotional naturally, and my emotions while pregnant are a whole new level of (as my stepdad would put it,) P-S-Y-C-H-O. Today took the cake though because it was just a really emotional day from the get-go and it all started out on the bridge.

The line wasn't really any longer than any other Thursday but it sure did drag. They recently changed which side of the bridge that the Ready Lanes are on and ever since then it's been pretty chaotic. I used to wait about 15 minutes in line on the Bridge of the Americas and now I am waiting closer to an hour in the mornings. It's a little frustrating but it was definitely worse when we first moved to Juárez so it's almost not worth mentioning. Anyway so this morning I ended up in a line that didn't really move for long spurts of time and then all of the sudden the cars would advance quickly.

I finally got to the point where I was next in line at the inspection booth and ended up waiting there for a good 15 minutes. The person that was in front of me being inspected had been there for a really long time. There seemed to be a lot of back and forth, but I just assumed that maybe the passengers were asking the officer a lot of immigration or importation questions because I know that happens from time to time. But one car sitting there for that long isn't very common, especially in a Ready Lane. Typically a car will pass through the booth in under a minute, if even close to that. They ask the necessary questions, do their inspection and move on to the next vehicle. If there are any suspicions they transfer the car over to secondary inspection to look into it further.

So after a while I did start to think that it was weird that I was sitting there for so long. People behind me were honking their horns and whatever but I was not about to follow suit. I understand that there's no way we can know what an officer is doing and if/when they are just slacking and taking their sweet time. For all we know that car could have been chock-full of cocaine. So I just sat there but did notice that as the officer was inspecting the vehicle at the booth, he kept glancing at me and giving me the weirdest looks. I ignored it and went back to scrolling through my Twitter feed.

Finally it's my turn to be inspected. I give the officer my passport, I say good morning and proceed to answer his questions. What was the purpose of your trip to Juárez? How long have you lived there? Where do you work? Simple stuff. He was a little short with me, but that's to be expected, I suppose. Then he takes my passport into the booth and looks up whatever it is they look up on their computer. He spent a good amount of time studying the computer screen before coming out of the booth and asking me why I cross multiple times a day. I explained that I work Monday through Friday in El Paso and only cross once a day. He instantly became argumentative and went on to basically accuse me of lying and insisted that I cross into the US multiple times a day. Not true. I don't know what he was trying to get at but his demeanor was extremely offensive. His facial expressions alone just threw me off.

Then he went on to ask me for my vehicle registration which I have never had anyone ask me for on the bridge with the exception of one occasion several years ago when the El Paso Police was checking for insurance of all vehicles entering the US. Is it normal for them to ask for registration? Maybe. I don't know. But there was just something about the way this guy asked me. Like he was going out of his way to make things difficult. I handed it over to him and he took a nice, long, slow look at it before handing it back to me with my passport stuck in the fold of the paper. He looks me right in the eye as he hands it to me and gives me this long creepy look and says, very sarcastically, "Have a nice day."

I responded with somewhat of a blank stare because how the fuck do you respond when someone says something to you that they clearly don't mean? You don't have to tell me to have a nice day, Border Patrol. I get it. You're not here to be my BF. I don't need you to wish me well or tell me you feel bad that I live in Mexico or ask me how my weekend was or tell me I look nice. I don't need your fake, condescending, "have a nice day!" There are plenty of people working for CBP who are actually pleasant at the bridge and may wish me a good day and actually mean it, but if you aren't one of those people, I'm cool with that. I literally have never had major problems at the bridge and maybe I've been spoiled by all of the people who have been so nice to me over the years?

In response to his obvious sarcasm, I stared at him blankly, mostly because I had no clue how to respond. He quickly went on to loudly say, "Or not," with an irritated tone in his voice, "Or don't have a nice day, whatever!" Oh hell no. Who is this guy? I really don't know what it was but that last comment just caused something to click in my head and I became so angry. I don't know... I just felt like he was talking to me like I was a dog or less-than or not worthy of his respect or something.

I asked him if there was some sort of problem to which he announced that there was, indeed, a problem. "You have an attitude problem," he said. Whoa. Where did I go wrong with this guy? I was polite, I said good morning, I answered his questions, I wasn't argumentative, I gave him the documents he wanted. I don't know what more he wanted from me and it was more than a little frustrating. So that's when I requested to speak with his supervisor. And as soon as the request came out of my mouth, I regretted it. I try to be a person that doesn't allow people like this to affect my whole day but for some reason (pregnantbrain,) I just couldn't let it slide this morning.

My request got him all riled up. He almost seemed excited. Oh yeah, let me get him for you, right away! Right now. You just just pull over here to secondary since you're in such a hurry but you have time to talk to my supervisor.

More bullshit sarcasm.

I never said I was in a hurry. After he told me I had an attitude problem, I told him, "Sir, I've been waiting in line for an hour," as I put my hands in the air hopelessly with a quizzical "what do you want my attitude to be like?" look on my face. "Well, that's not my problem," he said, "I just got here," he snapped.

Was I ear-to-ear smiles with a gleam in my eye, jumping up and down with joy this morning? Hell no! It was 7 am and I haven't had caffeine in 3 fucking months. I suppose what bothered me the most is that I feel like I have always gone out of my way to be polite to CBP. And honestly, in return I have had really great experiences crossing. I do think that my attitude has played a part in those good experiences because I believe that a person's attitude is infectious. Unfortunately today just didn't work out like most mornings...

I pulled into Secondary to wait for the supervisor at which point the officer asked me for my passport again, and then felt the need to ask for my car insurance (eye roll) and told me to turn off my vehicle. Again, going out of his way to be difficult. As I'm sitting there waiting for the supervisor I start to feel really fucking stupid. My eyes are welling with tears and I'm realizing that this whole thing is so trivial. There were no civil rights violations at play (which no doubt happen regularly at the border,) or anything that even warranted filing a complaint. If this guy is having a power trip and wants to talk to me like a piece of shit, tough cookies Emily, get over it. People are abused and talked down to and treated inappropriately all the time and here I am about to report this guy because he goes to work in the morning like somebody just pissed in his Cheerios? So not worth it.

The supervisor came over eventually and introduced himself and politely shook my hand. I immediately recognized him. He's seen me cross countless times before and has always gone out of his way to be decent and respectful. (Probably why he's the supervisor even though he's half the age of the guy who just finished giving me such a hard time.) I immediately apologized for taking his time but told him I just felt as though something had to be said. The tears started to flow as I explained what had happened. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth my brain was sending it fierce signals to stop talking but my words continued to flow as fast as my tears. I sounded all kinds of hormonal and I swear that poor man probably thought I was completely insane. I mentioned that I had never felt the need to file a complaint about CBP, not even the time an officer told me that my husband married me for a green card and would divorce me as soon as he got it, but for some reason this time was different.

He asked me if there was anything he could do and I told him that I really just wanted to tell someone that this man made me feel uncomfortable and I felt his demeanor was inappropriate and completely unnecessary. He talked down to me, told me I have a bad attitude and basically called me a liar and I wanted someone to be aware of that. The supervisor was sympathetic and asked me repeatedly if I would like him to do anything about it before making sure I wasn't late for work and wishing me a good day, genuinely.

Even as I'm typing this right now the entire thing seems absolutely absurd and I realize that maybe I am just totally and completely out to lunch. I don't know. I guess I really just wanted to check in here and vent about my silly experience on the bridge this morning that sort of ruined my whole day because I'm an idiot and I let it.

Any crazy, hormonal, pregnancy stories you'd like to share to make me feel less like I belong in a padded room?


  1. I had one screaming breakdown. About dinner. That my husband wouldn't bring to me on his way home because he would be riding a motorcycle without any saddle bags. Say...what? About the sixth time I came screaming out of the bedroom to rip him again he took a moment to check "This is still just about dinner...right?"

    No padded room. Hormones!!

  2. I almost laughed at the image of you being hormonal, but I would've done the same thing. How many non-US born people can he have been an ass to, and will be, who don't say anything for fear of being denied entry and interrupting their reason for crossing? If enough pregnant Emilies complain eventually he may suffer the consequences.

  3. Personally, I think you 100% did the right thing. If he treated you that way, think about how he treats Mexican nationals or people who don't speak English well. And I guarantee you most people are either so averse to confrontation or scared or the consequences of challenging a CBP officer that they would never have said anything. You didn't pitch a fit; you didn't demand he be fired; you didn't demand special treatment. All you did was notify his supervisor of his extremely inappropriate behavior at his job that he gets paid a lot of money to do. And it's perfectly okay to cry and show upset he made you feel. It sounds like the supervisor completely understood. You may have felt silly or embarrassed, but I guarantee you speaking up had an impact on how other people are treated in the future.

  4. Personally, I think you 100% did the right thing. If he treated you that way, think about how he treats Mexican nationals or people who don't speak English well. And I guarantee you most people are either so averse to confrontation or scared or the consequences of challenging a CBP officer that they would never have said anything. You didn't pitch a fit; you didn't demand he be fired; you didn't demand special treatment. All you did was notify his supervisor of his extremely inappropriate behavior at his job that he gets paid a lot of money to do. And it's perfectly okay to cry and show upset he made you feel. It sounds like the supervisor completely understood. You may have felt silly or embarrassed, but I guarantee you speaking up had an impact on how other people are treated in the future.

  5. I once had an epic meltdown over the dishwasher being loaded wrong. Never mind that I could have done what was wrong by hand or that everything still got clean, it was worth a major teary, screaming rant. Hormones can overwhelm us, and there is no need to feel guilty about what happens to even the best of women (of which I am definitely not so that wasn't the first or the last hormone laden rant). Besides, he definitely needs more complaints. Maybe if he gets enough, he will be reassigned to pooper scooper for the drug dogs.

  6. Amen to what's already been said, Emily. I don't get hormonal much anymore (been through the change and all), but you absolutely did the right thing. Most people (including me most of the time) wouldn't have done it, but if more of us did, it would likely be a little better world.

  7. First off, congratulations and my your pregnancy be one of the uneventful ones.

    Having had bad CBP encounters, no, I don't think you went over the edge on this one. Seems like the officer was being a jerk for being a jerk's sake. I think you had the right to complain.

    Again, congrats on your impending arrival.

  8. I don't think the baby had anything to do with it and if all of us in this situation didn't take this type of treatment and spoke up like you did, perhaps we'd all make a difference. Keep doing what you're doing! :-)

  9. You know what? I don't care if you were hormonal or not. I bet you weren't the first to complain about that jackass, and I hope that supervisor took your words to heart and suggested to that CBP officer that perhaps he should find another line of work.

  10. Congrats on the baby! Yay!

    I think part of what you experienced is a shift in attitudes toward "authority" in general. In my generation, we were brought up with this attitude that the police (or other officials) were always in the right and you should just be polite and accept whatever happens. In truth, we are now realizing that police or in this case, CBP are just normal humans, have bad days and mostly, they are only as good as the training they get and as professional as their own personalities will allow.

    While in the grand scheme of things, the guy treating you the way he did might be passed off as just an unpleasant experience but it is a symptom of the way he treats most people. Perhaps he isn't suited for that sort of work.

    I don't want to come across as anti-authority or try to make it sound like those guys don't have lots of bad experiences that contribute to their attitudes; I'm sure they have a tough job to do. But look no further than the guy who was the supervisor and how his positive and polite attitude was the right way to be. If he can treat you with respect and still get the job done, the other guy should be able to.

    Don't let the jerks get you down. Get the guy's name and file complaints via e-mail if that is possible or call once you get to work.

  11. When I was 4 months pregnant, I had an epic meltdown in front of my in-laws because my husband bought the wrong color of khakis to wear to our anniversary dinner. Pregnancy hormones are the worst, but for the best of reasons.

  12. Thank you Emily! What you did affects us all. If every person asked to speak with a supervisor when someone was being an asshole those assholes (hopefully) would be reprimanded---which they deserve.
    If Rosa Parks didn't stand up for herself on the bus, blacks would have been in the back longer. Okay, maybe that's an extreme example but you get my point. Long story short, those guys shouldn't get away with treating people like dirt. So thanks again for speaking out for all of us. I hope in the least the supervisor put him in his place.

  13. First of all, Congratulations!! So happy for you guys. :D

    Second of all, who is this guy? Pornstache? Jesus. What is it with people who go on a friggin' power trip when they're given some sort of authoritative role to play in society? Ugh. Don't worry, Em. I know your hormones were probably all over the place but that guy was rude as f**k for no reason. Makes me so angry for you.

  14. While pregnant I got mad at another driver who was acting like a jerk. I followed him to Costco then pulled in while he was stuck at the gas pumps and yelled at him. My husband was horrified and said I was going to get myself shot. I told him that I figured I was safe because there were too many witnesses. We still laugh at that one.

    I assume you heard the This American Life about border crossings?

  15. I know I am late to the game here, but I have to say that I nearly lost my mind one day because I had to buy nylons (they required skirts and nylons at my job then) and they were in the size "Ample." YES AMPLE. That was actually the size name. I cried for an hour. I mean, I am big as a house and just don't need nylons to tell me that.

    And yeah, you did the right thing. You did not deserve to be treated badly and be lied about. That is what gets me the most. The lie he told about you crossing many times a day. Just be a truthful asshole if you are going to be an asshole, guy!

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