“Do you know anyone in San Juan?”
Such an innocent question.
It was not my first time going through US customs. I know how to answer the questions from the TSA agents. Keep It Simple Stupid!
But I was tired from the long flight.
“No, but I do hope I meet someone!”
~ me with a stupid smile (I might have even winked)
“Please follow this officer for secondary inspection!”
I knew this could be a problem.
- I had a return ticket one week from arriving. Who spends 12 hours on a plane to just stay a week?
- I had booked the cheapest hostel I could find.
- I only had a few dollars in my pocket.
I was guided to a waiting room occupied by two other “guests” — a crying elderly woman and a very nervous man about my age. I decided to do the I’ve-got-nothing-to-be-nervous-about-routine, so I settled down and took out my Kindle.
“NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES!!!”
~TSA officer standing right in front of me (probably deaf since he felt the need to yell)
OK, so that backfired.
All the other TSA officers looked at me, the elderly woman started to cry louder and nervous man looked relieved. I took out my journal instead.
The elderly woman was eventually escorted out of the room, soon followed by the now not so nervous man.
45 minutes passed.
Had they found something in my luggage? Not that there was anything to find, but I was tired and started to worry.
The interview-room had a table, two chairs and a TSA officer lacking a sense of humor. I decided to keep my answers short and precise.
HIM: “Why the short stay?” ME: “I only got one week of work”
HIM: “Do you always stay at cheap hostels?” ME: “Yes”
HIM: “Why?” ME: “It’s a good place to meet people”
HIM: “Why did you travel to China last year?” ME: “It looked like a cool place”
HIM: “Did you bring any money?” ME: “I have a creditcard”
HIM: “How much money do you have?” ME: I wanted to say “enough!”, but decided to give him the amount
HIM: “Where do you work?” “What is your boss’ name” “When do you have to be back at work?” “How much money do you make?”
This went on for an hour.
We then went and found my luggage. The TSA officer went trough everything, including my Kindle, travel journal and iPhone.
HIM: “Who is that?” ME: “It’s my nephew”
HIM: “Where is that?” ME: “It’s Oslo”
HIM: “Great pictures” ME: “Thank you!”
I was safe!
Keep It Simple Stupid! I don’t blame the TSA officers in any way, they were just doing their job. My stupid “hope to meet someone”-answer started it and my whole one-week-no-cash-situation didn’t help. But I answered the questions politely, explained where needed and was allowed entrance.
It was a great week and I did meet some pretty great people!