One day my friend Kathi and I went to Nogales on a booze and cigarette run. While waiting in line to declare our citizenship and our purchases, we witnessed a way to cross the border illegally right under the customs agents' noses.
There were two lines open that day and the third, the line next to ours, was closed. A trashcan had been placed in front of the turnstile. An older Mexican man was directly in front of me. In front of him a younger man. At a signal from the older man, the younger guy dropped to the floor and scooted over to the turnstile and moved the trashcan out of the way. There he squatted just a foot from our agent's back. After another signal from the older man, he got back in line.
The lines were moving quickly. Once again the younger man dropped to the floor and crawled to the turnstile behind our agent's back. He turned and looked at the older man. He waited a beat. The older man lifted his hand just a little. With that the younger man turned, crawled behind the agent's desk, then stood and walked into the United States of America. The older man turned to me, lifted the cross he wore around his neck to his lips, and walked back into Mexico.
I turned to look at Kathi whose eyes were as big as ten peso coins. I looked at people in the other line - gringos and Mexicans - and everyone stared straight ahead as though in a trance. Had they seen what had just transpired?
When we got outside Kathi was crying. She wanted to find that young man and give him some money but he had disappeared. I bought her a dollar Whopper instead.
Obviously someone in the Customs office had been paid off. How else could this have happened? And how come no one in either of the lines said anything? For my part, I was curious to see how this would play out. I have to admit I was kind of cheering for the guy.
A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to do the Nogales crossing. The Customs office has now put up a huge guarded turnstile making a return into Mexico, like the older man did, impossible. I wonder if that came out of our little incident. Or were there more? Was a crooked agent busted? I'll never know. I wonder about that young man who crossed over. Is he living the good life in el norte or was he turned back? I'd like to know. It'd be a good story.