This is how low-level bureaucrats in the war on terrorism make sure that this nation is not attacked again by suspicious people. This man is from the Netherlands. He thought he would visit New Orleans. He will not make that mistake again.
This incident confirms North’s law of bureaucracy: “Some bureaucrat will eventually enforce a rule literally to the point of utter imbecility.”
“Sri Lanka, what were you doing over there?”
“Surfing. Traveling. My best friend lives there. He is an architect.”
The officer flipped on, seemingly satisfied. Secondly, he found my stamps from Singapore and Malaysia.
“What were you doing over there? Singapore and Malaysia? Aren’t those countries Islamic?”
Looking over my shoulder, his eyes searched for his colleague’s confirmation.
“Malaysia, I think so, yeah. But not Singapore. It’s a melting pot. A very futuristic city. Airconditioned to the ceiling. To Singapore I went mostly for the food, to be honest.”
“Nothing. And how about Malaysia?”
I explained flights departing from Malaysia were cheaper compared to Singapore. That I only went there for a few days, but also, a little bit, for the food. The customs officer went through some more pages. Then he found my Yemeni visa. He put my passport down and stared at me.
“What the hell were you doing in Yemen?”
“I went to the island Socotra, it’s not on mainland Yemen. It’s a small island closer to Somalia. A very special place, some call it ‘Galapagos of the Middle East.’ I think 85 percent of the plants and animals there, are indigenous.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“Yeah. I was scared. When I was at the airport in mainland Yemen. That entire area is now taken by al Qaeda, I believe.”
The customs officer was looking at my passport no longer. If he would have leafed through, he would have found Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi stamps.
That was the first time I had to open my suitcase. Six customs officers went through my two phones, iPad, laptop and camera. In my wallet they found an SD card I had totally forgotten about. They did not like that. By now I was the only one left in the dining car and the center of attention. I had put a raincoat in my suitcase, because I’d heard New Orleans tends to get hit by thunderstorms in the late summer. An officer held up the coat and barked:
“Who takes a coat to the U.S. in the summer?”
I answered it would keep me dry, in case the New Orleans levees would break again. The officer remained silent. He dropped my coat like a dishcloth.
The raincoat seemed to be the last straw. The customs officers exchanged looks.
“We’d like to ask you some more questions. But the train has to continue, so we’re going to take you off here.”
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