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12 August 2012 / leggypeggy

Don’t believe everything you read on a customs form—with PS

I was mad as hops when I came through the Dallas Airport last month. You know how they want you to tell the truth on the customs form? It works both ways. They should tell the truth in the instructions on the form.

This is what happened.

Poor John and I flew from Sydney to Dallas. It’s a 15-hour flight and a fairly new route for Qantas. Even though it’s long, I love it. We used to have to go through Los Angeles and, although I have wonderful friends I like to catch up with there, it has to be one of the most unpleasant airports in the world.

Potsie reminding me to laugh about the whole thing

If we’re not visiting anyone along the way, we wait around the LA airport to fly to Denver, then wait around the Denver airport to fly to Omaha. I’ve waited up to 10 hours between flights and it’s not fun.

So coming through Dallas gives me a straight shot to Omaha. This time we were stopping in Dallas, but that’s not important to the story.

They hand out customs forms on the flight. It says very clearly that there should be only ONE form per family. Only ONE! Got that? Just ONE. That’s all it says on the subject.

Just before Poor John and I lined up for immigration clearance, I reached for another form, but he reminded me that we needed just ONE form per family.

I hesitated. I almost took one—I go through the US citizen’s line and he goes through the non-citizen’s line. Maybe I needed my own. But then it dawned on me that customs clearance comes AFTER immigration and AFTER you collect your bags from the carousel. We’d be back together by then.

Can you guess where I’m going with this?

So I trail through about a mile of cattle run called the immigration line. It took about an hour before I got to the window. First thing the fellow asked was,
‘Where’s your customs card?’
‘With my non-citizen husband.’
‘Well you’re not going past here without a card.’
‘It says one per family and I don’t even have my bags yet.’
‘Well you’re not going past here without that card.’
‘Do you have any blank cards?’ and he leaned forward, smirked and pointed back to the doorway.
‘Nope, you’re going to have to go all the way back there and get a card and join the line again.’

And you can’t get mad or you’ll probably get arrested.

So I did it all over again. And if people had found a small pile of ash on the floor it would have been me after I burst into flames.

But I finally got through after another long trek. For about 20 minutes, I was the last person in line. Guess what? The fellow at the second window had a little stand with spare customs cards. I bet they all do!

Now to find Poor John. We agreed to meet on the other side of the immigration line. But he wasn’t there.

So I went down to the carousel. We were so late by now that the signboard no longer posted which carousel ‘belonged’ to our flight.

Information directed me to carousel 2. I found our bags on the floor, away from the carousel, but no Poor John.

So back upstairs. I had come down by escalator, but there were only steps on the return—equivalent to three flights. About a third of the way up, I twisted my already wonky knee (see the knee brace I’m wearing in some of the blog entry photos). It had been just about healed.

So while I may have been furious, it hurt too much to stomp up the stairs. And it’s lucky no one heard what I was saying under my breath.

As I approached this side of the immigration line, I saw that Poor John was still waiting to come through. Unbelievable how slow all this process had been! Seriously, two hours to clear passport control?

And then I find out he’s had a hassle too.

His fellow looks at his customs form and says,
‘Where’s your wife?’
‘In the US citizen’s queue.’
‘She should have come through this line with you because you’re both on the same form.’

So why in the hell don’t they add that little nugget of information to the form? We’re not mind readers!

I’m still annoyed, but I mostly got over it. Later that evening, I could even take the advice printed on the Dame Edna apron we gave to Potsie, our friend and host. Laugh!

P.S. What happened at customs

I forgot to tell you what happened when we got to the actual customs spot—AFTER we had collected our baggage.

There we were in the queue. I had my form for just me, stamped and scribbled on by my fellow at immigration. Poor John had his form for both of us, stamped and scribbled on by his fellow at immigration.

The customs official was politely grilling most people in front of us in the queue. I’m not stupid and I wasn’t going to explain again, so I put my form in my pocket. Poor John showed the official his form, and the reply was ‘You folks have a nice stay’ and he shooed us through. I swear I didn’t smirk.


Leave a Comment
  1. lmo58 / Aug 12 2012 3:24 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    What a nightmare! Sounds like the people who want you to use the customs form should employ a good editor! Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself. Honestly! No wonder no one likes going through customs and immigration. I’m really pleased that you can now laugh about it. Given that you’ve left Dallas, how are your ankle and knee now? Are you still hobbling with a brace? Take care and best wishes too to Poor John.



    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2012 11:20 pm

      It wasn’t really a nightmare, just a pain in the neck…er, knee! Editor, quality control, people skills, smiles, manners — they need ’em all. And the knee is better, but still a bit touchy. The ankle has never been a problem.


  2. lisa / Aug 12 2012 8:24 pm

    Oh Peggy, sounds terrible. I must tell you that although it is bad, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Hope your knee is ok. lisa xx


    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2012 11:21 pm

      Knee is much better. Still wear the brace on long-walk days. I feel like Linus with his security blanket. 🙂


  3. rinshin / Aug 13 2012 8:44 pm

    Very frustrating for sure Peggy. I’m always amazed at how these things don’t seem to bother Brad but I’m usually mad mad. But one hour immigration seems very long. I usually breeze through SFO.


    • leggypeggy / Aug 13 2012 9:01 pm

      I think Poor John was as frustrated as I was on this occasion. Usually he just shrugs these things off. And the one hour was for my first trip through immigration. The second go wasn’t quite as long.


  4. duonyte / Aug 20 2012 5:48 am

    Too funny – I do think it amazing that it is harder for me to come home to the US than to enter most any other country at least in Europe……


    • leggypeggy / Aug 21 2012 3:33 am

      The rigamarole was a surprise to me, and more than a little annoying. It would have been totally okay if the fellow hadn’t smirked and sent me back to the beginning. What happened to manners?


  5. Jo Jury / Aug 31 2012 5:39 am

    Just now reading of the horrible experience after you have been here and gone! I think I can understand why you didn’t bring it up while you were here. So wonderful to have you here.Pleased also that you had a chance to meet our granddaughter Bri. By the way, we mailed the political buttons to Bri yesterday. With Bill’s approval, of course. After all, they did belong to him.
    Had no trouble with British Customs getting into Great Britain without my passport. But – I had to write a check for $165.00 to the Port of Seattle before they would let me leave the airport when we arrived home!!!!!


    • leggypeggy / Aug 31 2012 9:23 am

      Jo, I guess we all have our nightmare stories from immigration and customs. Delighted to hear that Bri will have the buttons. I hope Bill tells her the stories that go with them. Thanks again so very much for such a wonderful stay in Seattle. I guarantee you, we’ll be back.


  6. jeanleesworld / Apr 15 2016 4:57 am

    Brilliant closing line. You’ve got a gift for the narrative arc, you do. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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