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Well, sheeit, I was guilty: the good life was still pumping through my veins. This man had probably spent the last five months sitting behind a booth, cleaning his fingernails with his new Swiss Army knife, sucking on some dip in his side cheek and reading the latest addition of Guns and Ammo while his wife nursed four kids at home in a small, weathered one-bedroom trailer. What the heck, I'll throw him a way out of his boredom, let him test his skills, and maybe he'd get a promotion out of the whole fiasco.

He puts on a pair of rubber gloves and gives them the ol' snap-a-roo by pulling on the ends, quite similar to the style of a doctor telling you to spread ‘em and cough.

"Hmmmm," he says. "Says here son that you were in Bolivia."

"Yeah, it does say that," I say.

"What business did you also have in Colombia?"

"Well, first of all I don't do business. Colombia was nothing but what Epicurus would call pleasure. And Bolivia was ice-climbing and saturated with shamans.” This thought doesn't actually leave my mouth, but hovers in the back of my head like a hot cannon waiting to explode onto the target.

"Oh, just traveling," I tell him.

"Traveling. Well, what do you mean by traveling? What did your travels entail?"

Now I begin to heat up. I start giving him the most simple and at times one-word answers to satisfy his questions.

"Walking and taking pictures in beautiful landscapes," I tell him.

"Yeah but how much walking did you do and was the camera in your possession at all times?"

He seemed under the impression that I would tell him my life story and since I was not motivated to do so, he seemed to think I was toying with him. I knew this from the sight of the flesh on his face, going from pink to ripe-tomato red.

He's already asked me twice in ten minutes if I brought back any tobacco or food products into the country. I tell him "no" both times. Hmm… maybe he thought I’d switch my answer, so he asked me the same question twice. But then again he could have been a rookie, stumbling over his own interrogation questions.

He pulls out a book on Peru, turns it so the spine is sticking up to the ceiling and flutters through all of the pages in hopes of some sort of contraband falling out.

"How was this book?"

I retort back, "Well, I was in Peru and this book is a book on Peru, so it was quite informative."

"Really," he says.

"Yeah, really," I say.

Through the small spikes of his flat-top I could now see small beads of sweat forming on his scalp. Each time he leaned back down to pull something out of my bag, a small bead would slide through the symmetrical spikes and slip down through the cracks in his lined forehead, hoping to find something to reiterate how important his job really was to the national security of the country.

After rummaging through colorful knitted Bolivian socks that hadn't been washed since I last needed them for a towel in a rest-stop shower, a metal maté straw used by Argentineans to drink their tea (yerba maté), a rusted metal compass, and my daisy duke cut-off jean shorts, still starched by the salty Caribbean sea, he looks at me and says, "Son what are you going to do with your life in the next couple of years?"

I puff my chest out, give him a mad-dog stare and say, "I’m going to Harvard Law School next year."

"Really? What field of law?"

And I tell him well, since I've been young, my motivation has been vehemently driven in the direction of stopping police corruption, corruption within the ranks of all government officials, from congressmen to government anti-terrorist teams (such as the one you are on buddy!), and the defense of minorities of the world!

Flabbergasted, he quickly shoves all of my dirt-covered belongings and tells me I can go.

"That’s it – you don't need anything more? No more questions. Are you sure?" I fire back with slanted eyebrows.

He stares the other way.

"No, you're fine. Please go," he quickly mutters under his breath.

I suppose this was a case of cultural fashion, not racial profiling.

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Cardpal Dec. 16, 2010 @ 2:17 p.m.

A photo of you in that South American attire as you entered U.S. customs would be priceless. You're such a great observer and story teller. I love your writing. More!


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