Thursday, February 25, 2010

Inspection Station

I was spending a week in Corpus Christi with my girlfriend and we took a day trip down to Brownsville the other day. We parked near the bridge and walked over the bridge into Matamoros without incident. We bought a few souvenirs that we brought back with no problems, including a bottle of Tequila that Texas collected their tax on at the Texas part of the border crossing. You pass through 3 checkpoints to cross the border from Mexico to Texas -- Mexican border patrol, US border patrol, and Texas tax agents.

The route between Corpus Christi and Brownsville is pretty much a straight shot down US77 and that’s the way we came on the Southbound leg. The hiway goes right through the King Ranch and provides a very clear visual demonstration that the idea of Miles and Miles of Texas is really just another way to discuss Miles and Miles of Absolutely Nothing.. Which is why we decided to take an alternate route back to Corpus Christi. We took a side trip about 20-30 miles west of US77 to go North on US281.

The scenery is still a whole bunch of nothing, but it’s a different nothing.

No matter which route we were going to take we had to go through an INS “Inspection Station”. This one is North of Encino and South of Falfurrias.

These “Inspection Stations” are permanent roadblocks our friendly government has set up to engage in our War on Drugs and War Against Mexican Immigration. It’s their way of Keeping America Safe. I don‘t think it works all that well and it seems pretty clearly an affront to our constitution, but what I think about it doesn’t really count for much.

The highway has two Northbound lanes and the Roadblock has a permanent header above the inspection bays. There are three inspection bays with red and green lights above them to indicate which lanes or open or closed. The first lane had a large red X and the other two (what looked like they’d be called lines 2 and 3) had green X’s

They had a light sign that said that cars should take lane 1 and trucks lane 2. But lane 1 was closed. So what does any of that mean? Do they start counting from the right? I didn’t think of any other explanation so I went over to the right hand lane only to discover I was in line with a bunch of semi trucks.

Oh. I guess they only count lanes that are open, so I moved into the middle lane (what it seemed they were calling lane 1). That was the correct lane.

I tend to not be real patient with cop types (border patrol or otherwise) anyway, but a combination of the confusing signs and the next thing I saw made me even less patient than normal.

They had a drug sniffing dog walking up and down the car lane. The dog was clearly more interested in the truck lane -- any real dog would prefer chasing a truck over chasing a car. But the handler wanted the dog to sniff the cars. The car in front of me was a pickup and the dog just ignored it, stretching his leash to try to pull the handler over to the semi-trucks. The handler then openly and obviously tried to cue the dog by putting his arm into the rear well of the pickup and batting the vehicle. That sort of cuing a drug dog is not just inappropriate, it’s downright wrong.

The dog wasn’t falling for the cues. It’s kind of sad when a dog is smarter than the Border Patrol. After the pickup in front of me was released the Border Patrol agent waved me forward. But the dog kept jumping in front of me trying to get to the trucks. The agent kept waving me forward, I’d start to drive up, the dog would jump, I’d slam on the brakes, repeat.

He kept waving. Finally I stuck my head out the window and yelled “You’re going to have to get this guy to start controlling his dog”.

The handler pulled the leash up shorter and held his dog back. I drove up to the agent at the little podiom.

“Where are you going?”, he asked.

“Is that a problem?”, I responded. I knew the reason for the question was to begin a dialogue which found a “contradiction” in my responses. The argument is that if I contradict myself in a conversation they then have probable cause for a search of the car. A search of a car can involve actually taking it apart, not something I wanted to have happen.

Standard police logic interprets someone saying they’re driving from Brownsville to Corpus when they are on a road other than the direct route is a contradiction.

“Is what a problem?”, he said.

“Is my destination a problem?”

He seemed a little flustered. “No, I was just asking a question”.

“Okay”, I said. Then I sat silently., looking at him inquisitively.

He tried again, “Where are you coming from?”.

I sat silently.

My girlfriend was worried I was going to start something that ended up a problem and said, “Brownsville”.

“Are you both American citizens?”, he asked.
“Yes”.

That satisfied him and he stood back, waved us on, and said, “You can go”.

I intensely dislike what’s happening to America. I grew up in the 50’s when it was considered evil to have government functionaries approach you and ask for your papers. But it seems that if you don’t just get with the program that you’re asking for trouble.

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