Friday, 18 March 2011


I handed the customs officer my driver's license and health card.

"Canadian." He shuffled the two pieces of ID and then looked at me.

"Where're you goin Miss?"

"I'm going to a baby shower. Uh, my sister's baby shower." I said, unable to recall where the shower was, my mind a blank suddenly.

"Where's your sister live?"

"Well she lives in Harper Woods, but the shower isn't there. It's at her friend's house. I mean it's at her sister-in-law's." I sat up straight hoping this would stop my voice from shaking. "I have the directions in my purse."

"Where're you bohn Miss?" He sounded just like my brother-in-law, same Michigan accent.

"Uh, Bangladesh but I've been a Canadian citizen for over twenty years."

"Where's your proof of citizenshep ehat?"

I'd been crossing this border since I was a kid and couldn't remember the last time they'd asked for my citizenship card.

"I'm waiting for a new one in the mail. I lost mine." It sounded lame even to me.

"MmmHmm." he said and without pausing, pointed toward the building in front of me. "Okaay please pull through and paark up under that paavilion. Do nat git out of your caar. An ahficer will cahm to you."

Shit. This was the first time I'd needed to cross since it had happened.    

I pulled into the parking lot of the Customs and Immigration Building. I badly needed a cigarette but was too scared to light one up. Within a few minutes a stern-faced officer was standing next to my door, signalling me with two gloved fingers to step out the car.

I pulled my lips into a tight smile. "Hi," I said.

He nodded his head. "Please stay on this side of the yellow line ma'am."

I don't know why I hadn't considered the ramifications to security at the bridge. It was June 2002, not even a full year after 9/11, the day which had altered our world. A terrible, terrible day which ignited a new kind of fear, a new kind of racism.

"What's going on?" My nervousness was slowly heating into anger. "Are you searching my car?" No warning. Nothing.

"Yes I am Ma'am. Please stay behind the yellow line." His voice was rigid and unapologetic. He then popped my trunk and with a wand like stick began sifting through my belongings. Books, a towel, an extra dog leash, some half-empty water bottles and some loose papers.

I could hear my mother's voice in my head.
"You have to know which way to go at the bottom of the bridge. The wrong direction - pick the wrong line and you could be there for hours." I most certainly had gone the wrong direction.

It was not a good day to be a lone traveller with no documented proof of belonging. It definitely was not a good day to be a brown skinned Arabic-looking woman without proof of Canadian citizenship.

After two more searches of my car  this time by two different officers in army outfits, and two 15 minute interviews by these officers I was released. (I later learned these officers belonged to the National Guard).

Weary and shaken I drove to the baby shower, four hours late, and arrived just as the party was packing up.

This is my entry for the Red Writing Hood meme - detour.


  1. This was amazing! I loved the direction that you took with the prompt. I really got a taste of your thinking, decisions and experiences. You wove all of that in subtly, without knocking me over the head with it. Well done!

  2. Scary situation, i am nothing "interesting" happened then... I always think "lay it low when you are against the flow."

    i guess it will always be hard for us.. for pete's sake already... get over "us".

  3. I liked the simplicity of this story, especially given the difficult nature of the event. You told it straight-forward without lots of flowery details and it made it more real because of this.

    I traveled to England soon after 9/11 to visit my daughter who lives there. I have more difficulty getting back into the States than getting into England and I'm an American citizen. It's still intimidating to arrive in the States. Though my experience was through flying, I imagine it holds true for the borders, as well.

    You captured this intimidation very well in your story. Thanks for sharing it:~)

  4. I have a Turkish friend-same situations happen to her. I have another friend who's husband is from Iran, and after 911 he was afraid for his life because of all the ignorant jerks in the US.

    After reading this, I just want to give you a hug:)

  5. I bet that was very scary...and the horrible truth of the matter is- we do indeed profile after 9/11. WHy?? fear, uncertainty, trying to obtain some sense of control. But it is wrong and sucks, nonetheless. And my hubby is one of those National Guard guys who's job it is to profile...and protect. Stopping by from RDC.

  6. Ugh. The world we live in, and you missed the shower. Boo. Normally when people try and right in dialect I find it really,really irritating/distracting and will often not finish reading. But it worked so well here it was a great way to provide the reader with almost a double vision of the moment.
    'Do nat git out of your caar. An ahficer will cahm to you.'

    You did an amazing job of capturing it, and honestly it made me giggle.

  7. I agree with what someone else said above, that you kept this scene simple, which made it very effective.

  8. What an unpleasant "detour".
    And how sad we've come to this point.

    This was an excellent take on the prompt. Very well communicated, from nervous to angry.
    It's very sad you missed the shower.

  9. No frills, just the truth of what happened to you. That made the impact of the story even more visceral to me.

    P.S. I LOVE that baby picture up at the top of your blog! It's adorable!

  10. Damn - I hate this. I hate that we have been used. Fear of 'the other' used to strengthen the power of the military. I hate what this has done to our country. Brown (red) skin was here FIRST - white skins are the intruder. I HATE THIS!

  11. I don't have brown skin, but I always get the VIP treatment when I fly. I just love the wand especially when they see the karas. I am glad you stopped by. It is nice to meet you.

  12. Been there!! Before 911, Doug and I were able to cross the border with a smile and a flash of the drivers license. After 911 - not so much. I don't understand why they have to be so RUDE. Oh the stories I could tell you of searches, detainments, refusals, etc. - and neither of us are criminals or have a criminal record of ANY kind!! I hate crossing the border and we get sick at our stomachs every time.

  13. and P.S. we are both very white/Caucasian so they spread "the love" around to everyone girl! :(((

  14. Thanks for the raw, unfettered account of your experience being detoured. I don't think people get to see the emotional impact of what it's like to be singled out, profiled, stereotyped or whatever you want to call it. Thanks.

  15. I don't have words of comfort, only words of empathy. It happens today even...blessings to you for sharing. It's a shame our skin or hair can cause this sort of reaction.

  16. My goodness what a story – and told brilliantly!!

    Your words – they are so good to read – I heart your words.

    May God Bless and Keep you and all of yours this day

  17. I always find myself feeling guilty when I am dealing with customs, even though I have no reason to. And I got sent to an office re-entering the US one when I used a passport by mistake that I had thought (and reported) lost.

  18. You tell this so very well. Unflinching. With a keen eye for details, accents, and moments.

    That yellow line is etched so clearly in my mind.

    So sorry you missed the shower. For the record, you're welcome here in Maryland, anytime.

  19. powerfully written Kim...amazingly felt by all who is blessed to visit you here...thank you always


Thanks for your comment!