“You’re gone all next week too?” I asked Rocket-man just the other day as he was packing once again for another business trip. He’s been on the road for nearly three weeks. “Yes,” he sighed as he stuffed a couple of ties into his suitcase. Fortunately he will be back in time to enjoy a long weekend home and a visit by sis and company. The Poodle was sound asleep in his bed in the other room blissfully unaware of yet another suitcase being packed. That’s because Rocket-man and I were in the bedroom closet, with the door closed. Now, don’t start! There was nothing exciting going in the closet mind you. Really. Just packing. You see, when Poodle sees the suitcase, he gets mighty anxious so being the good pooch owners that we are, we try to minimize his anxiety as much as possible. Yes….it sure seems we are spending more time in the closet these days; It’s a good thing our closet is rather spacious!
So It was clear that I’d have to make the day trip to Nashville, Tennessee on my own. It’s a two and a half hour drive, each way. I was hoping to make an adventurous day of it with Rocket-man but with his travel schedule that was going to be impossible. The reason for my Nashville trip? Unfortunately, not a visit to the Grand Ole Opry (which I have yet to see) or shopping at stores other than Target. I had to go for my Global Entry interview. It’s the last part of the application process for a kinder, less stressful travel experience.
I joked with Rocket-man just days before the scheduled interview that applying for Global Entry would probably ensure that I wouldn’t be traveling anywhere overseas in the next five years. You can see that I am a glass half-empty kind of gal. I’m not the optimistic sort. Still, I went through with the application. The first step was completing an on-line application. Let me just say that the website is just another perfect example of why our Government shouldn’t be in the business of creating websites (I’m sure the Affordable Care Act website springs to mind for some of you). Anyhow, I got through that idiocy and was ready for step 2: the interview. Rocket-man, who received his Global Entry card months ago, assured me that the interview would be completely painless. “They only ask a question or two; it took me less than five minutes. Just answer the questions, keeping it short and sweet. Oh, and they will be taking your fingerprints as well.”
“I’m going to be fingerprinted?” I asked. “I’m not sure I want to hand over my fingerprints to the U.S. Government.” Rocket-man had a good chuckled over my paranoia…um….I mean, distrust. “You’re watching way too much conspiracy-driven and crime-themed television programs,” he said. “Stick to lighter fare like The Big Bang Theory.”
Though I hate to admit it….I suppose there is some truth in that.
The drive up to Nashville was pleasant. Though cold and windy, the sun was shining and I had a steaming mug of Starbucks coffee to keep me warm…and awake…for the drive.
Once I arrived at the appointed destination, knowing a photo would be taken, I checked my hair and lipstick in the rearview mirror. In retrospect, this step was a waste of time. The photo would be in black and white and I was expressly told not to smile: My Global Entry card photo has me looking like a freshly booked-into-jail convict.
I gathered my application and supporting documentation (passport, naturalization papers and even my Italian birth certificate…just in case). Once inside the rather bland, government building I followed the signs to the Global Entry office. I was greeted by a nice woman who confirmed my appointment and was told that my wait would only be a few minutes.
I had barely read a few lines of the book I’d brought when my name was called. I was guided into a small room with only two small desks. Oh my. There were three police officers in the room. Three fully uniformed officers with guns in their holsters. I could already feel my heart beating a bit faster.
Now isn’t this just ridiculous.
I haven’t got a thing to hide but here I am in a room with three cops (with no windows I might add) and my heart is beating faster than normal…and it is not because of the cool black boots they are wearing. (OK, that’s out. Yes, I confess: I’ve got a weakness for men in nice leather boots).
One of the cops (Cop A) proceeded to ask me questions while the other two cops (B and C) stand behind him, looking over his shoulder. They don’t say a word…not even a friendly “good afternoon.” Cop A is seated at a small desk which is clean as a whistle; nothing on it but a computer, keyboard and mouse and a small device for fingerprinting. At first he just asks clarifying questions such as name, address and verifying spellings, etc. Then he asks why I am applying for Global Entry.
“I’d like to be able to breeze through security without the hassle of taking my shoes off,” I joked (sort-of). Cops B and C look at each other. I don’t think they were amused. “Well, I do plan on a couple of overseas trips in the next year or so and I do want to be able to make the travel experience as easy as possible.” I replied.
Cop A: “Where to you plan on traveling to?”
Me: “Spain, but not until 2017. Well, hopefully in 2017.”
Cops B and C are now scrunched closer to Cop A, scrutinizing whatever is visible on the computer screen. All three look at me intently as if waiting for me to ‘tell the truth.” Now I am nervous. And what do I do when I am nervous?
I sing like a canary…if you know what I mean.
Stuff—inane and otherwise—just comes tumbling out of my mouth.
I tell them about wanting to travel to Spain to walk the Camino Del Santiago. I even go into detail about the Netflix movie, The Way, that I had watched it and how it got me powerfully jazzed about walking 500 miles in 2017, when I turn sixty. “…and that’s if my knees hold up,” I add. “I’m trying to determine when to get my bi-lateral total knee replacements.”
Cop A, interrupting my babbling: “Yes, that’s nice. OK then…..when was the last time you traveled overseas?
Me: “2008. I went to Germany.”
All three cops are looking at the computer screen.
Cop B: “Business or pleasure?”
Was I being interrogated? It sure felt that way. I could feel beads of sweat on my forehead. These guys just don’t seem very friendly! I remembered Rocket-man’s words. “Keep your answers short and sweet” and yet here I was practically spilling my life story because I was nervous to be in a room, alone, with three somber-faced cops. Did I mention they were armed?
Me: “Oh, pleasure for sure. My sister had a baby. I went to help her after her baby was born. Her husband was U.S, Air Force and they were stationed there…because of his command.” I had to add that: I figured this would surely help this… um…interrogation.
Cop A continues to click-through his work on the computer. He then asks if Germany was the only country I visited.
“Well, I was in Italy and France too.” Cop A looks at me, then at the screen, then back at me again. It seems as if whatever information he is looking at on the screen doesn’t match with ‘my story.’
I then try to rack my brain as to the exact itinerary of that trip taken in 2008. How I’d wish I had eaten lunch as I am definitely feeling foggy-brained. I start giving Cop A more silly details: “My cousins in Italy drove to Germany and picked me up hence no passport stamps for Italy because of travel by car.” I even go on to say my cousins only stopped twice in over eleven-plus hours by car and my back was hurting. “Oh…yes, I forgot.….I also traveled to Belgium and Amsterdam too….and London, but wait…that was the year before.” Ay! I am foggy-brained! Cop B looks intently at the screen again (this is getting mighty annoying). “I traveled to some of those places by car as well during outings with my sis, her husband, and my just weeks-old nephew. He was just the most adorable baby on the planet…”
There I go…rambling on…. again.
And then, before another word has a chance to tumble out of my mouth, Cop A says: “We’ll take your photo now —please do not smile–and we’ll also take your fingerprints.” Well, he did say please’ that’s nice. This procedure takes about a minute and before another minute passes he hands me my Global Entry acceptance. “You’ll receive your card in the mail, which will be good for five years, in a week or two,” he says, now with a smile. Was he messing with me this whole time? Now I know that as soon as I walk out they’ll all be laughing!
“Oh. We’re done?” I ask, hoping that my sweeping relief that this ordeal is over does not show.
I gathered myself up out of the chair and for a moment thought about telling the guys how much I liked their boots. Maybe that would get Cops B and C to smile?
I walked out of the building into the frigid afternoon air. It felt wonderfully refreshing.
I wonder why on earth I have this fear of police officers. I’ve no idea. Maybe it is some past life experience (if…um…one were to believe in that sort of thing!). One thing I learned about myself during this little day excursion? It’s a good thing I did not choose the military as a profession. I’d sing like a canary if I were captured by the enemy. It’s something that I’ve got to work on…not that I intend on being captured by some enemy force anytime soon mind you!