By Hamid Rafi
January 7, 1998
This is my last chance to exit before crossing the U.S. border. My heart is pounding faster and faster. Should I cross the border? Will I be able to re-enter? What about my car that I am parking on the other side of the border? Did I turn off my coffee maker? ...
These were the thoughts going through my mind on that sunny early morning when I decided to go to Tijuana, Mexico to get a re-entry visa to the U.S.
I am walking as fast as I can. I see a million yellow Mexican cab drivers, all waiting for me calling "Taxi, Taxi,..." I don't think I look Mexican but the Taxi driver keeps talking to me in Spanish. All I can tell him is: "Senior, American Consulate per favor!"
Here comes his big smile, he knows he's got the customer of the day. We get there in five minutes and suddenly the driver speaks fluent English and asks for $10.
There is at least 250 people gathered around the American Consulate. It looks like a shrine. Most are Mexicans, but I see Palestinians, Indians and Chinese among them as well. They too dream of coming to the U.S.
I have a 10 O'clock appointment. I struggle through the people. At the front gate a Mexican security guard is standing. It seems everybody's destiny belonged to him. His thick mustache reminds me of our own "shir ali ghassab" (famous Iranian butcher/actor).
He does not talk much. He does not show any facial emotion. Nothing at all. I keep trying to tell him I have an appointment but he does not listen or look at me. I turn back to my newly found Mexican friend in the line and point at the guard: "El Presidente!" I hear people laughing at my comment.
Suddenly the guard is telling me: "You, senior! Go back at the end of the line!"
It's four in the afternoon. I am back at the border. My visa was rejected but I was promised one with more documents. Will I be able to cross and turn off my coffee machine?
The border officer looks nicer than the Mexican guard at the Consulate. He tells me there is a problem. Oh God! Do I have to go through this? He asks me where do I live, how long I lived in the U.S., who's my mother, why am I tall, do I drink coffee with cream or sugar, which basketball team is my favorite. Then he looks up and tells me, "Welcome to the United States."
By that time I had forgotten all about my coffee maker.