TCN, Episode 10 – Customs and Immigration

Nov 10 – I reenter the USA via Philadelphia.  I’m nervous because Dan was once stuck here for several days.  My first stop is Immigration.

“Where are you coming from?”


“What were you doing there?”

“Buddhist classes.”

“Are you a Buddhist?”


“Do you meditate?”

“I do.”

“Does it make any difference?”

“I’m growing a bit less selfish and sometimes more helpful. My wife says I’m becoming a better person.”

“Well if your wife says it, that’s decisive!  How long do you meditate?”

“Part of what I do is meditate, the other part is ritual chanting.  I do a couple of hours altogether first thing in the morning when I can follow my routine.”

“Oh, that’s too much, I can’t do that…  My wife keeps telling me to meditate.”

“I couldn’t have done it when I was working.  My teachers say it makes a difference if you do only 15 or 20 minutes every day.”

“Hmm.  OK…  Welcome back to America.”

“Thank you.  Try it for 15 minutes.  See if it works for you.”

The Immigration man one line over interviewing the woman from South Sudan who sat next to me on the plane and asked me to help her complete the Customs and Immigration form tells her to go to the “Secondary Interview” room.   She also asked me to help her navigate the airport so I look for my bag while she waits.

Happy to find my bag intact, I take it to where the woman is waiting.  She doesn’t know why she is there.

A serious young white man and a cheerful young black woman tell her to come with them for questioning.  At a nearby table they examine documents she retrieves from her bag.  She is nervous but they finish quickly and tell her:  “You don’t have your Green Card yet.  When you do, it will come here.  Okay, you can go now.”

So off we go to find her large bags, then on to Customs.  Everyone else on our flight is long gone.  At the end of the “Nothing to Declare” path a friendly woman smiles at my companion, waves her forward and says: “Don’t be nervous.  Everything is okay.”  She smiles more broadly when my companion shyly approaches, stamps her form without looking at it and waves her on.  Then she smiles at me, waves me forward and stamps my form.

We hand over our bags at the Transit desk then look for the gate for her flight to Minneapolis.  The display doesn’t show it because she has a four hour layover.  I find a friendly black woman at an Information booth and introduce them.  My companion is now in good hands so I go for my flight to Boston.  It leaves almost on time!

This was my best return journey ever.  You’d think my Buddhist practice is working 🙂

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