Wednesday, November 21, 2012

OMG…..Another Border Crossing

Okay, I have another story on my latest border crossing “mis” adventure.  Well, it was time to make the monthly pet food run and food shop for the Thanksgiving dinner party and as luck would have it my new friend was already planning to spend the weekend in San Diego, so invited me to come along. Now we had just one little problem. She has a Senti Pass, which allows her to go in a special lane and make the border crossing in minutes instead of hours. This pass is issued by the Homeland Security and is good only for the person and their vehicle, every person in the vehicle must have their own Senti. So, what people do is get close the crossing and then drop anyone who doesn’t have the pass off to walk across the border. Now that sounds like a simple plan, doesn’t it? I’ve read about it online and it is a standard thing to do. So, we have a plan and off we go.  It is a beautiful sunshine afternoon and a joy to be able to watch the scenery along the coastal route to the border. Within the hour we are in Tijuana. Here is where the craziness begins. First it with cars, buses and trucks cutting you off and people playing dodge the vehicle as the run across the lanes of traffic. Finally, we get up to the Senti on ramp and it is closed. The police wave us away. We need to go to the other location which has us driving in more congestion,  now the sun has started to set. Our plan was to be well across the border before dark and now it looks like we won’t even get to the border until dark.  At long last, we are nearing the place to let me off and it  has become dark. There is a long line of people standing in this little mall area.  I decided I won’t take my purse leaving it in the car. I said, I’ll take my cell phone and ID’s. Stuff the passport and a $20. bill with my drivers license in my front jeans pocket, just as it is time to jump out of the car. She stops and I jump out. I start looking for the end of the line, I walked about a block, it is dark, I am feeling very alone and unsure of the situation. I think I will call her, then I realize I don’t have my cell phone. I turn and go back, but I don’t see her car at all, she has already gone across the border. I am alone!

I turn and start walking back to find the end of the line, it wraps down around the corner, no end in sight. Now I have different men approaching me saying “bus $5.00”. I just shake my head no. I don’t know what they are offering me.  I continue walking a long side the line it has been a few blocks and still I have not found the end of the line. At this point another man asks someone walking near me also, looking for the end of the line “bus $5.00”. I think maybe this is a good idea. I walk back to where my friend dropped me off and the first man again says “bus $5.00”. I get the twenty out of my pocket and offer it to him. He has a roll of US dollars that he can almost not get his hand around, he peels off a 5 and a 10 and hand them to me. He then motions me toward the curb, as well as the other three unsmiling skinny disheveled Mexican men, who are standing nearby. These guys look like the type I really won’t normally come in contact with…I start wonder what kind of bus have I just paid for…am I getting on a bus that is smuggling people across or what….many silly and nervous thoughts like this run through my head. Now the guy has us out in traffic walking in the same lane as the moving cars. We stop to wait for the bus I guess. Then a policeman comes along and speaks Spanish to the guy and he motions us to start walking. We walk tight against this temporary wooden wall , where a curb should be as the cars move past us. Then there is an opening past the wooden wall and he has us stop and wait. My imagination is at this point is totally running away with me, part of me is in fear and part of me thinks that is silly and everything is okay. 

Soon a white unmarked commercial van pulls up. The guy opens the side door and motions us to climb on in….a wave of English rushes out to greet my ears as I start to climb up into the van, can’t really see that much in the dark, but the voices are chatting to each other in a friendly way…..whew this is all going to be okay! So, the van already is totally full with a dozen people, but I mange to almost fit in a middle seat next to three other women.  The women in the seat assured me that they take this “bus” all the time. They park on the other side and walk over to shop or go to the dentist. There are very cheap and good dentists in Tijuana.
So, after riding along for a few blocks the van stops the driver gets out and opens the side doors, but he doesn’t want us to get out, it just that we are now in a bus line and have to wait. He is just giving us some air in the overcrowded vehicle.  So, we all continue to chat. Next thing we know the van starts moving and the one door is swinging around wildly almost hitting a parked car. The women in the seat in front of me and I grab it as it swings back toward the van. We are holding on to it while the bus is now driving on toward the border. Then it pulls into a bus parking lane. The driver gets out and comes back to the open door and counts how many people are in the bus. At this point I think great it is only going to be a few minutes and I will be walking into the border crossing inspection station. Wrong, we continue to wait. Finally a Homeland security guard comes around and directs us to the open side door of the building, where another armed guard is holding the door open. So we enter the inspection area just as they are taking a man away in hand cuffs’ from the next line. It is an unnerving sight. We stand and wait. The line doesn’t move. There is no one in the booth at the front of this line. We wait about a half hour and finally the line moves and it is my turn. I am greeted by the agent , passport checked and then I am on my way out the door. I get out the door and realize I have never seen this area before. It is a plaza with the San Diego trolley, fast food restaurants all around glowing neon signs in the dark. I blink and wonder what to do just then my friend is a few yards in front of me waving and calling me with her cell phone to her ear. I have never been so happy and relieved to see someone. She said she had been trying to call me, she had not realized that the phone was ringing in my purse that she now had over her shoulder.  “OMG” is all I can say about this border crossing. Anyway, off we went for our evening Art Gallery Open and other San Diego adventures.

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