I have set down my incredibly heavy Timbuk 2 bag to lean over the counter that naturally falls at my armpit level. I lean over on the blue block and pass the customs agent my passport,
Officer looks at my documents. He is mid-30s with glasses and blond spiky hair. He reminds me of the main character from King of Queens.
"Welcome home Miss Higgins. Where are you headed?"
I shift my other bag uncomfortably on my left shoulder. Damn me for being such a lousy packer. I purse my lips together, rubbing some of the remaining gloss that's on them instead of the untimely action of digging through my bag for lip chap.
He flips through my passport and frowns.
"But you live in Canada? What takes you to Vegas?"
My turn to frown. I don't like any additional questions or having to answer them, like when you know you have six bottles of wine in your suitcase and you should only have two.
He glances up from the papers, just moving his eye. He gives me a head tilt and a slight squint. I worry that I might get hauled into the back room here again, like last time I flew through Vancouver and told the customs agent I had an apple. I was just trying to be honest and it landed me in full white room while a really nice lady ripped through my entire bag.
"Are you a dancer?"
I really, really want to be flattered but I don't like where this is going. Before I can say anything else, he adds,
"An exotic dancer? Or an entertainer?"
I want to laugh. Badly. But I also know humor isn't always the strong point for convincingly crossing borders. Just ask myself or Lisa about the Lithuania border crossing on the bus sometime.
"Erm, no. I work for an active travel company."
He stares at me like this is the wrong answer. There is a heavy silence that I cannot interpret. In his eyes I feel like he is trying to evaluate the likelihood I am a liar. Should I have lied and said yes? Would this have been a satisfactory answer?
"You know, we get a lot of strippers that fly to Vegas to perform."
I sense this conversation may be swirling out of control.
I laugh, it is forced and I really sound like a liar. I am flushing, it feels warm in this room right now. There is a huge line of people behind me, surely this man doesn't think that I, dressed in a long sleeve black sweater, black tights and boots, hair in a pony tail with no make up, no jewels or fake breasts am actually a stripper going down to Vegas to 'perform' or 'work' or 'dance' for the next two weeks. In my head I start to entertain the possibility of having to prove my type of work, like calling my boss and saying, 'Hey Mike, do you think you could possibly tell border protection services that I am not on my way down to Vegas to strip for a few weeks, but rather to lead trips in Death Valley?'
Another squint from blondy and he passes me back my passport.
I wish I could have recorded that entire conversation. I stop in the washroom on the other side of the customs screening area and look at myself in the mirror. I cannot decided whether I am flattered or offended. I decide not to worry about it and head to my gate, spring in my step, almost dancing all the way to Tim Horton's and then the gate.