>See If You Can Guess the Correct Answer …
Back in the bad old, good old days, the stupidest question a traveler was ever likely to hear was when the agent at the check-in counter at the airport asked: “Are you carrying any explosives in your luggage?”
But that was before 9-11 and before the Shrub decided that the Department of Homeland Security (aka the Ministry of Truth) was the appropriate response to the new Cold War. Which, unlike the old one, is being waged against American citizens instead of foreign ones, a feature that significantly cuts down on commute time.
But lo and behold, your tax dollars are not being wasted! The D of HS has established a new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) administered by your friends in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Division (bet you didn’t know that existed, did you?).
From now until the end of the year, however, the Travel Authorization program is voluntary, so Dolce Metà dutifully went online to fill out the proffered form. At the top of the page, you are invited to “Select Your Preferred Language.” In case you weren’t sure, your preferred language is English, because that’s the only one available.
In any case, halfway through the form, Dolce Metà came across the questions below and asked me to explain them because, of course, they couldn’t really be asking anything so stupid (and using Americans’ money to pay for this useless data-collection effort), could they?
Ha, I laughed. Ha, ha. Just like that. Employing what I intended to be a very wry and world-weary tone.
I dunno. Could they?
Dear U.S. Customs and Border Protection Division:
Attached please find my completed ESTA Travel Authorization application. Though I am a longtime heroin addict, I have also recently developed a rather aggressive coke habit. As you can imagine, my personal expenses are really starting to mount up, especially when you add in treatment for the scorching case of TB I came down with when I was in Afghanistan. Thus, in an effort to increase my cash flow, I have recently made the decision to enter the U.S. in order to find work either in arms smuggling, drug trafficking, white slavery, or possibly genocide, though I understand the latter requires a lot of start-up money. This application, by the way, is intended to replace the one I sent in about a year ago. At that point, I had recently been released from my third jail term and was interested in a career in tattoo-parlor management; thus, I indicated that my name was Lola and listed my birthplace as Zhytomyr. In fact, I’ve never even been to the north-western Ukraine. Looking back on it, it strikes me as a sort of silly schoolboy prank. In any case, this is my real application, and I look forward to receiving my travel authorization from you at your earliest convenience.
P.S. My ex-roommate’s American wife’s still swears that I attempted to kidnap her two children when they were all on a visit to France a couple of years back, but all I really wanted to do was take them to EuroDisney for the weekend. I felt I needed to be up front with you about this incident, should it ever come up. I can tell from the questions on your application, though, that honesty is what matters to you most of all, which is one of the things I really love about America.
Very truly yours,
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Division
Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) Questionnaire
A) Do you have a communicable disease; physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict?
B) Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
C) Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved , in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?
D) Are you seeking to work in the U.S.; or have you ever been excluded and deported; or been previously removed from the United States or procured or attempted to procure a visa or entry into the U.S. by fraud or misrepresentation?
E) Have you ever detained, retained or withheld custody of a child from a U.S. citizen granted custody of the child?
F) Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?