The passport checks slow you down. Every time you cross a border, stacked traffic, a half-mile of tractor trailers and delivery vans and soccer moms idling in front of the concrete liftgates. The tedium of the wait, the radio dissolving into static as you pull into the steel-reinforced cement Customs Dock, swiping, drumming your fingers on the steering wheel for the thirty seconds it takes for the little light to ding green and then the fucking endless shink shink shink of the gates sliding up and down. You’re in a rush, you gun it before you’ve got clearance all around, your tires bumping over the lip as it’s sliding into its little crevice, the antenna catching the overhead and bending over and sproinging back into place as you rev up through first, second, third.

You can, if you’re a courier or a commuter or a service guy who crosses all the time, get a radio chip slid into the back of your hand that’ll call the checkpoint as you’re pulling up, that’ll run the checks before you’re even in the Customs Dock, give you a green light without you having to slow down. But, y’know, the idea of giving, well, whoever, the ability and the right to look you up and check your position whenever they feel like it…I dunno. Call me paranoid, but the fuckers know too much about me already, so far as I’m concerned. I’d rather lose a few minutes of my life when I’ve gotta slide into NYC.

And Heaven help you if you’ve got passengers, ‘cause then it’s an automatic spot check, a beer belly cinched with a web belt, a pair of sunglasses sauntering out from the bulletproof box, squinting at photos, scanning the SSN bars with a wireless checkout gun. Gum-cracking, unsmiling, ignoring your banter, your well-intentioned inquiries into the state of the day, the well-being of this particular frontline soldier in the DHS army. The Customs Dock filling up with the smell of exhaust, the sun cut out by bombwalls above and before and beside. The nervous sweat of wondering if the computer has crossed you over with a name on the no-go list, if some sneaky Mujahadeen has decided to take your name as their latest alias. Knowing that there’s some grim Tac guy hidden away somewhere on a clear sightline with your forced smile square in a 20X scope, waiting for you to twitch the wrong way so he can erase you.

You hear about it happening, but it’s only on the rumor circuit. Yeah, I knew this guy, Albanian, his name came up wrong and he started to argue, got shot in the chest ‘cause he started yelling. Yeah, this lady, shit, had a car fulla kids, reached into the glove compartment for a juicebox or something, boom, right behind the ear. You tell yourself that it’s gotta be bullshit, that the Feds are better than that, that they don’t just flake and start shooting for everything that’s not perfectly five-by. And, yeah, when you’re eating dinner or taking a shower or pushing your papers across a desk in a highrise, you can be sure that all is well and all is well and that all is well on God’s green earth. But, fuck man, you’re sitting in the box and a pair of sunglasses making 30k a year is one hand signal away from killing you dead, well, your faith starts to waver.

But that’s traveling, and the risks of doing it regularly, and that’s why an uneducated monkey with no real prospects and no real ambitions can pull down a grand or two a week for the seemingly simple task of taking confidential interoffice memos from Stanford, CT to Parsipanny, NJ. Shit, that’s six borders in a couple of hours. A half dozen chances for a flat crack from the shadows and your brains sprayed across the dashboard. You think about it that way too much and you’ll drive yourself buggy. You think about it at all and you’ll drive yourself buggy. So you just listen to radio static and close your eyes and wait for the shink shink shink and then punch it back out into the sunlight.


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