That could be the US-Canada border, in my case Pearson International, a fifty dollar cab ride outside of Toronto. I was headed to see friends in North Carolina, the Tar Heel State. I always approach this part of a journey to the United States with some trepidation. One wrong check mark on your declaration, one misspoke word, do I look nervous.
I spoke very respectfully, attempting to smile, to let this man who at this moment held my liberty in his hands, know I knew he held such power. He looked at me briefly, typing into a computer screen all the information I gave him.
What would come up? My last visit to the USA? The last book I bought? Maybe they knew I was gay? They asked where I was staying, who I was meeting, what was the purpose of my visit?
I made a mistake, I had not checked one box. He handed my card back, instructed me to go back and check it and then get back in line. The line was long, I had been in it more than an hour now as we waited for Customs to open.
I walked back a few steps into no man's land, checked the box and stood waiting for some direction, determined not to re-enter the line at its end. I was soon pointed back to the man who had sent me away by a woman that was directing traffic. Finally a break I thought, at least I was being recognised in a somewhat more human manner. He looked at the card, stamped it and sent me on my way, without so much as a "Welcome to the USA" or good bye. I wasn't expecting it. No he didn't even look at me.
My experience was not uncommon, a new study recently said, "... 54 percent of travelers from abroad report that American immigration officials were rude, and two-thirds of travelers surveyed fear they'll be detained at the border because of a simple mistake or misstatement."
I am not sure why it is, why it has always been this way, most Americans like people in any other country I have visited are friendly, welcoming and generally happy to say hello to those visiting. I really was entering a new/time space continuum.