All In My Head

Morf Morford


© Copyright 2024 by Morf Morford

Photo courtesy of the author.
   Photo courtesy of the author

On the evening of May 10th, 2024, when many others were preparing to watch the most intense visible Aurora Borealis and solar storm in decades, I was in custody of the US border patrol on the US side of the Canadian border.

Going through customs, it would be easy to argue, is no one’s favorite travel-related activity.

It’s essential, it seems, but few of us look forward to it.

I was radioactive.

But this time it wasn’t a metaphor

My wife and I were, for most of the time, the only people not of color in the rapidly growing line in the waiting room before a long counter with at least twenty desk stations.

Most of those set apart, or “chosen” were East Indian or Asian. Eventually a few Ukrainian speaking clusters of families joined a crowd of at least fifty of us undergoing “secondary inspections”.

Behind that desk of at least twenty desk work stations, there were, for almost two hours, a maximum of two border patrol staff actively at work; most of the time both staff were working with a young Ukrainian man with shoulder-length hair attempting to walk across the border into the US.

As a white US citizen, barely over 70, I didn’t fit the stereotype casting-call of those with me waiting for official clearance to enter the US, and for me at least, to go home.

The instigation for my pull-out and closer inspection had nothing to do (presumably) with my ethnicity, skin tone, citizenship, background, appearance, criminal record or presumed intentions.

The purpose for my “secondary inspection” was literally all in my head.

The day before my border crossing, I had a medical brain scan at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center which involved an injection of radioactive materials to highlight potential areas for further study.

I was told that the radioactive elements had a 13-hour half-life and would leave my system within a few days.

The doctor assured me that I should feel no side effects – but to call them if I did.

Somehow I believed him, even as he brought out a normal sized syringe – with a beer can-sized lead casing around it – and proceeded to inject me with whatever radiation-infused concoction the medical procedure required.

My wife and I had a few days free after the brain scan, so we decided to take a quick trip to Canada.

We had no problems crossing the border in a northerly direction, but on our return, my cranial radiation level triggered ultra-sensitive monitoring systems several car lengths from the actual border.

A visibly alarmed set of burly customs agents in full body armor surrounded our car as we went through the usual routines of a standard border crossing.

And then we were pulled aside.

They took our car keys, and then our passports.

And we waited. And waited.

After 45 minutes or so, one staff member called us aside and scanned us with a Geiger counter. My wife, of course, was cleared, but he described me as “very hot”.

I told him about my procedure and that any radiation was (literally) in my head, but he was not amused. (Actually, he was amused, but still diligent).

For whatever reason, it took more than an hour to clear us for release and departure.

In that hour, they took our vehicle through a car-wash sized screening system (visible from the primary border crossing area).

We had crossed that border at that point many times previously. Our earlier crossings had been cordial and efficient.

This particular crossing inspired our awe and, at some levels, vulnerability and even a few slivers of paranoia.

The level of alert monitoring was an inspiration. Being caught in the web of national security was comforting and horrifying at the same time.

Our faith in the vigilance of those protecting our borders was largely confirmed, and as the doctor told me, I felt little to no physical side effects, but the experience as a whole, was, to put it mildly, exhausting.

You’d think that medical procedures like mine would have been relatively routine, but then again, for my level of radiation to be so high that it triggered atmospheric monitoring systems was unnerving as well.

I had no noticeable physical or medical side effects, but neither I nor my doctor factored in geo-magnetic storms or international complications. Atmospheric disruptions in the Earth's magnetosphere, resonance with the radioactive elements surging through my blood and brain, heightened terrorism alerts and wars in multiple locations have, if nothing else made for an interesting weekend in the Puget Sound region.

A visit by a sitting president only added to the active variables.

We won’t be doing much international travel for the time being, but as a cautionary tale to all, consider this a warning for those with medical procedures and travel plans. And, as those of us who cross the border relatively often have learned from experience, always allow extra time when you cross any international boundary, you never know who may be in front of you or what complications may emerge from otherwise, under normal circumstances, routine activities.

Footnote; It was probably my imagination, but I was sure that I felt some kind of sparkling resonance with the prevailing cosmic solar storm impulses. It seemed to me that some kind of a Marvel comic superpower should have been my reward for such a strange set of encounters with internal, galactic and governmental forces.

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