Mexico now takes the cake, for me, for the highest number of deportations – of any country in the world. This second time was a couple weeks ago. I was all jolly and sassilly headed down to meet up with Sadie Nardini and Leslie Kaminoff to co-teach a sold-out yoga workshop in gorgeous Tulum, Mexico. This indeed, my friends, was a great blessing, and I eagerly anticipated it: the crystal clear waters, the white-sand beaches, the mango margaritas and fish tacos to die for. So I was off, straight flight from Austin to Tulum via Air Tran, 2+ hours, smooth as pie. But when I arrived at immigration, my straight shot to paradise took an unfortunate turn.
At immigration, the TSA-senorita took my passport to the backroom. Now, this is rarely a fortuitous event when it happens. But in the past year of all the promiscuous world travels I’ve had, whenever my sad little passport was evaluated sub-par, it was usually just taken to a place where they would either input the numbers by hand into their system, or write down the requisite details — which was usually at worst a pain and temporal inconvenience. Yet despite my id’s relatively retched condition, freyed at the edges, folded and with an unfortunate ink stain covering the edges (from having spent well over a year in my pocket around Austin, when I was too lazy to go and get a new drivers licence), it had successfully passed the demanding inspection some 8 countries in the past year – including Mexico, just 5 months prior.
And yet, despite this, it was, apparently, facing at last it’s mortal demise.
They took me into the glass-box back room – the ‘controles de inmigración‘. There I was graciously informed that it was not, in fact, acceptable because their scanner was not reading the code. As softly as possible in that moment, though probably with a far-more-than-preferable degree of annoyance, I informed the oficial that he could just input the details by hand, as I had seen done so very many times before. His reply, “You do not tell me how to do my job!”, sparked the first beginnings of panic. He told me I was leaving on the next flight back to America. I said no, that we could work this out. He disagreed, and told me to grab my bags.
I called Sadie, who quickly became incensed, and demanded to speak to the controlador. But he would not touch the phone. As I was talking to Sadie, a group of variously uniformed funcionarios began encircling me. I was then told it was time to go, escorted out the door. The whole time I’m on the phone with Sadie explicating and intoning “Tell them you are a very important teacher, there are 40 people waiting for you -DON’T LEAVE” – “Sir, it is time to go”, “DON’T LEAVE I’M COMING THERE”, and so on. The threat of physical coercion was palpable. Finally, I informed them I would NOT leave, and they, seemingly rather incensed, told me I would then simply stay in the glass box until the flight out the next day.
I went back into the waiting room, trying to figure out my next step, when an even more senior oficial who’d been part of my previous entourage walked in with a manila envelope and told me via translation to put my phone inside. Now the panic was real. I did everything in my power to be nice and reason with the would be bandolero, that it was my only communication, my timepeace, my life, but he wouldn’t have it. And as he and the guardia de seguridad approached me with fixed violence in their eyes, I eventually relented, feeling hopeless and defeated.
The next 30 or 40 minutes, as I sat in my glass box of emotion watching the varieties of officiales going about their inane business, I began to calm down and put things into perspective; that the level of consciousness of this occupation was ‘duty’, ‘pride’ and ‘honor'; and so it behooved me to kowtow and act as meek and docile as possible. So when the hombre came back with the US Embassy on the line, and I was cheerily informed that I was completely at their mercy and I had no options whatsoever, I was completely accepting and just softly asked for the return of my phone. After another 15 or 20 minutes, it was returned and everyone’s energy softened.
I sat meditating on the overall surreality of the situation until 3pm, when it was time to go. Then two of the comandantes literally ran me with my bags through the back alleys of the Cancun airport straight to my gate, where I was shuffled on and handed my moribund passport, departing at 3:05pm to the states for it’s proper and well overdue euthanization.