I’ve just driven 1,400 miles listening to my mother complain because I haven’t let her take the wheel because she always drives under the speed limit and that drives me nuts. The backseat and all of the spare space between us in my old Camry is literally stuffed to the roof with the last of my belongings that didn’t go into the moving truck. The AC isn’t working very well, and it’s the middle of the summer. I’m tired of stopping for food, even, so I’m munching on dry oatmeal from a canister that I couldn’t justify tossing out when I emptied out my dorm apartment and packed everything up. We’ve seen sand, rocks, flat land, and about twenty million saguaro cacti, the godawful ugly plants that they are. On our first night when we stopped in an armpit of a town where the only clean hotel was booked up, we spent the entire night chasing bird-sized mosquitos around our hotel room.
I’m jittery about this new life I’m starting on my own with my Marine husband I’ve never before lived with, and my mom is jittery and a little bit excited about seeing her daughter fly so far from the nest. Also I’ve got what seems like a gallon of McDonald’s coffee pumping through my veins so I’m just plain jittery.
By the time we reach the California state line we’re both more than a bit loopy. I’ve been testing my vocal ranges by singing rain songs for the last few hours, and my mom stopped laughing at that after the first five minutes she had to endure it. The saguaro cacti were mocking us, I’m certain of it. All fifty bajillion of them.
There’s a checkpoint just inside the California border where all traffic has to funnel through a gap in the mountains where border patrol agents stop each car to ask people if they’re transporting anything they shouldn’t. And you can bet that’s a boring job. Same question for every driver, over and over, every day.
So what I think the border patrol agents are trained to say to drivers is:
“Greetings/Hello/Good Day! Are you a US citizen?”
But when you say this a thousand times a day to a thousand different people, I can see why you might want to shorten it a bit to something like:
But all the dry oatmeal, McDonald’s coffee, rain songs, saguaro cacti, and mom+me time have left me in a state of delirium so what I hear is:
“Greetings, citizen.” (Punctuation is important, kids.)
To which I promptly–and perhaps foolishly–reply:
“Greetings, Earthling. I come in peace.”
He stares at me for a moment, shakes his head in bewilderment, stares a moment longer while I sit there munching on dry oatmeal straight from the canister, then waves me on through. I sing the rain song of my people once more, this time with a triumphant air.