The trick to having US customs all sewn up

23:13, Aug 06 2012

I have returned from the so called Land of the free, but it was a close run thing. There was a time when I wondered if it was going to be "Happy ever after!".

When I semi-retired, certain wifely duties were revised. Duties I had relied on since we were married had been rescinded, revoked or just plainly ignored. One of the more important of these duties was the ability to sew buttons on garments, particularly trousers, and I now found I was in an era of "You're retired aren't you? You have heaps of time. Do it your bloody self!"

I am now certain that trouser manufacturers have a rule that forbids employees to sew the top button on trousers in anything but a loose manner. Mine, inevitably lose this loose button within minutes of donning the article, and after a prolonged monologue on the manufacturer's heredity, his ethics, incompetence and shoddy products, I proceed to tuck the inner waist band below the now derelict button hole and tighten my belt to hold the garment in place.

This method of trouser control has become the norm, since the new rules, which I consider a gross negligence of duty. I have steadfastedly ignored advice on how to sew buttons onto a piece of cloth, and have got used to adjusting my waistband and pulling my belt up tight.

That is until I met the USA border control. They are the most cynical, unfriendly, hostile, aggressive, arrogant, gang of muggers you would ever meet.

The worst of them are in New York, not on the border, but working on the ferries that take tourists out around Ellis Island to gaze on, would you believe, the Statue of Liberty.


Liberty is not a word these gangsters, masquerading as law enforcers, understand.

They ordered me to discard all goods, including paper from my shirt pocket, wallet from trouser pocket, shoes from feet, and to cap it off, my belt from my trousers, in case I had a machine gun, or hypodermic, concealed in the buckle.

I put all my household goods including handkerchief, loose change, four sweets, hotel card, bus pass, wallet, belt, biro, comb, shoes, tourist pass, and bus schedule, in a tray, and waddled into the X-ray machine.

"Hands in the air!" yelled a voice. "Feet on the footprints," it said.

"Hands in the air," it screamed again.

But I had a huge dilemma.

I was desperately trying to hold my stomach in and refrain from putting pressure on my, now, unsupported waistline. I could feel the trousers slowly easing away from my stomach, especially as raising my hands skyward helped loosen my clothes quite rapidly.

"Hands in the air. In the air." The guy was screaming again.

He couldn't seem to comprehend that there is air all around us, and my hands were in air even when clutching an errant waistband.

He, however, was convinced the only air was above head height and I was tempted to argue the toss with him, or ask for a snorkel, but he did appear to be a bit grumpy and I could hear a voice in the back-ground advising caution.

I had a choice. Do as asked, and lose all dignity as my trousers plunged to the floor, in front of 500 tourists, or grab the descending garments, and risk the ire of the, rapidly growing unfriendly, guards.

I chose modesty and grabbed my descending trousers, just in time to prevent complete exposure, and looked up at three grumpy looking guards, all with their hands on, as yet un-drawn, revolvers.

My hands reached for the sky again, to show some sort of compliance.

My trousers tried for my shoes again.

I spread my legs even wider, and bent my knees to prevent trouser droop.

She, who caused the problem in the first place, came to my aid and hustled me towards my x-rayed goods, holding up my pants with a more than firm grip on the back of them.

She was wearing her scathing look and I was hoping it was for the guards and not for me. I searched for my belt while she scooped up the rest of my belongings.

I knew I was due for a lecture and it wasn't long in coming.

"You bloody nearly got shot because you were too pig headed to sew on your buttons," she said, with an air of satisfaction.

If I ever go back to America, I am going to have to solve this problem. They have this photo of me with legs spread and hands diving for my hips like an gun-slinger from the West.

Has anyone out there got a set of old fashioned braces?

Manawatu Standard