Friday, March 31, 2017
(This is an extended family life update, but the same caution applies.)
This morning I took my niece Emily Cassell to the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead which is south of Jamul, literally at the border, about a 45 minute drive down the 94. The old, rusted panels of the border fence are just a stone's throw away. Emily is an amazing athlete (and a scholar as well, but that's another story) and I have few doubts that she'll make record time on the trail. Tomorrow morning I'm picking up her dad, the famous law professor Paul Cassell, and dropping him off about 10 miles north of there where he'll join his daughter for a day.
But that's not what's provoked me to write this post. On the way back home, I stopped at the Border Patrol checkpoint and got pulled out for a drug search after their dog evidently alerted at my truck. Or maybe the newfangled photo thingy they have didn't like the algorithmic look of me. I was in the regular vehicle line, expecting to be waved through, when the tallish and serious under a veneer of jocularity seeming guard starting asking me questions. Meanwhile, a female officer and her dog were sniffing around my truck. I have not ever smoked or transported weed -- that's marijuana to you non-baby boomers -- in the truck, much as I would have liked to, were it legal, which it is not, at least as far as I can tell. They don't sell it at the 7-11. That's when I think the dog alerted.
After that I was directed to pull out of line and wait for them to take a closer look. I was asked to exit my vehicle, and I was peppered with sort of friendly questions. "Do you smoke weed?" Not that it was any of his business, but I said no. All of the witty answers I have now sort of fled my mind. "So your daughter is hiking the trail, huh?" "No, my niece." "You don't come this way often." "No, I was just dropping her off." "Is she going all the way to way to Whatchamacallit Springs?"(I look stupidly at the officer; I don't know what he's talking about.) "Uh, no, she's going all the way to, to, Washington, if she doesn't get slowed down by the snow . . . " In the meantime, the female officer and the young drug dog, who seemed to be having a great time, had opened my doors and hopped into my truck, literally sniffing around. My truck is not notably clean in the normal sense of the word.
Earlier I was asked "You don't mind if we give you vehicle a quick search do you?" I automatically said, "Sure, go ahead," which would have been stupid in any other context, but here, just perhaps 10 miles north of the border, La Migra has extraordinary search powers, I thought. Did they think they had probable cause? No, I guess, or they wouldn't have asked. I don't have anything to hide, at least nothing involving drugs, but mistakes happen. So I just said yes, doing the easy thing. "So where did you drop your daughter off?" "At the trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail, and she's my niece." I got the definite feeling they were trying to confuse me. "What, at Barona?" --or someplace. Now the female officer, who looked like she ran and kickboxed in her spare time, had joined in. "You know, the one right by the border. It's like a stone throw away.""There are several," she said, completely incorrectly and daring me to correct her. I didn't.
Anyway, they finally let me go. The whole experience left me feeling rattled, grateful for my freedom, curious about the female officer, annoyed at the drug dog, vaguely outraged at the intrusion, and oddly exhilarated and pissed off at the same time. I forgot to mention, yes, I am an American citizen. They asked me that too.