Sunday, December 12, 2004


Damned Furriners

I never really thought much about the American sense of humour back in the late sixties. American trips were not so common and our view of them was coloured by the writings of Thurber, Steinbeck and Co and by early TV shows of Happy Days, Beverley Hill Billies etc. So when a fellow Corporal and I decided to go back to UK, from British Hondura, overland through Mexico, into the States and home via RAF from Washington we did not think much about it.
Arriving at Nogales, Mexico, the border town, we scouted about a bit and found the “Official Border Crossing Point”.
We were in uniform (jungle greens, and berets), carrying large Bergen rucksacks with tents, bedrolls etc, including large machete type jungle knives strapped on to the top, and Union Flags sewn on the Top flap.
There were two distinct crossing points. A very nice, airconditioned, carpeted building marked “US and Domestic” and a sort of Cattle shed hot and dusty with long lines of persons outside marked “Foreigners and Aliens”. So we thought, bugger waiting about with the hoi polloi we’ll take the easy option. So in we go to the nice, air conditioned, carpeted US and Domestic building. Two very large Americans festooned with guns, cords, badges and patches, wearing what they call Smokey the Bear hats – but we call Boy Scout (Baden Powell) hats ! approach. We politely enquire regarding entry to the Land of the Free ! At which point they put on their War faces and start shouting – “Listen you foreigners – get back in line with the wet backs in the Aliens entry point”, and start to try and shove us out of the building. Up speaks John Bull, whipping out his trusty Blue Passport (in those days we had proper Passports!)
“Listen my good man”(always a good start when dealing with over officious authority)
“It says here”(opening at page one)
“Her Brittanic Majesty’s Principle Secretary for Foreign Affairs, REQUIRES you to assist the bearer of this Passport without let or hinderance, AND, apart from anything else, We are English, YOU are foreigners !”
Strange, they turned a funny shade of purple – went well with the purple pocket flaps on their shirts – Next thing we know its into the cell block and the strip search and the significant putting on the rubber gloves with the elastic snap ! Ouch, oh, oh the enema didn’t help much either. The machete on top of the bed roll had slipped round underneath it, so they were also trying to charge us with concealed weapons as well as “unspecified”, “possible” charges of trying to enter the Country illegally and some sort of drugs charges – At this time the only drugs us squaddies used were Asprin to get rid of the hangovers ! Luckily I had been going out with a Secretary in the American Consulate in Belize, so she had arranged an A1 multiple entry, diplomatic Visa for us ( all multi coloured and taking up a whole page in the Passport.
They had absolutely no sense of humour at all – it took several phone calls and umming and arring before they would let us in (although after that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go ! Mind you I’ve dined out on the story several times and most of us seemed to think it was amusing ! strange persons our colonial cousins
Evenin all

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