Our son, Parker, made it to Istanbul to meet us on vacation. He had quite a trip, for a variety of reasons.
We live in Nashville, TN and Parker lives in Dawson Creek, BC. We don’t get to see him that often, so a few years ago we decided to spend Christmas together someplace in the world. This year it was Turkey. We were leaving Nashville and Parker was leaving from Vancouver, BC on Wednesday, December 24th and we were meeting up in Istanbul.
First of all, there was the passport issue.
On Sunday night I was looking online and found that, although we can buy a visa at the airport when we arrive in Istanbul, you can purchase one online before you leave and print it off before you leave. I purchased visas for Susan and I and then called Parker. “Hey, give me your passport information and I can get your visa online and email it to you.”
“Sure, I’ll take a picture and send it to you. Funny thing, you know my passport expires at the end of January, just in time I guess,” said Parker.
Me – silence – then, “You know I am pretty sure your passport needs to be valid for at least six months after the day you arrive in Turkey. A lot of countries are like that.” An internet search confirmed this assumption. So, we had a little bit of an issue. It was Sunday night, Parker’s flight was on Wednesday at noon, and his current passport wouldn’t allow him to enter Turkey for our two week vacation we had been planning for months.
Further research online showed that if you showed up in person at a passport office with $110 extra, and proof that you needed a passport urgently (airline tickets, for example) you could get a passport in 24 hours. Parker had gone down to Vancouver a few days early to spend time with Nana and Papa and could get around to get passport photos and go to the passport office. Problem solved. In Amsterdam I sent a text to Parker to confirm that he got his passport. Yes!! He had the passport and was on the way to the airport with time to spare. We would meet him in Istanbul in about 15 hours.
Since Parker was connecting in Salt Lake City, he had to go through US Customs and Border Protection at the Vancouver airport. That is where things got interesting. “Where are you going?” asked Border Agent Lee.
“Istanbul, Turkey”, Parker replied.
“Vacation with my parents. I am meeting them there.”
“Vacation in Turkey? Why not Cancun?” asked the agent incredulously. Parker explained that is something we like to do as a family. You, know travel to different countries over Christmas. Go to museums, learn about another country, those sorts of things.
“Your parents aren’t with you? Where are they coming from?” inquired Agent Lee.
“They live in Nashville, TN. We are meeting up in Istanbul.”
“Wait a minute! You’re American? How come you aren’t traveling on a US passport?”
Parker explained that he has had trouble traveling on his US Passport because the photo was taken nine years before when he had a mohawk and no facial hair. Border Agents had a hard time believing he was the person in the photo. “Besides,” said Parker. “I am not really going to the USA. I am only going to be in Salt Lake City for 45 minutes. I have a really short connection. I just figured since I live in Canada now, I would use my Canadian passport.”
The alarms were going off in Agent Lee’s head. “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!” Here is a 20 something young man that looks kind of like a blond Osama Bin Laden, traveling alone to Turkey – which borders on Syria, dressed in drab colored clothes, claims to be a US Citizen yet is traveling on a Canadian passport that was issued at 9:00AM that day. “Come with me,” he said, and led Parker to a waiting area. “Take a seat.”
A few minutes later, Agent Gonzales came out, “Mr. Mossop? Follow me.” Agent Gonzales took Parker to an interview room with two chairs and a desk. He started asking all the same questions, “Where are you going? Why? Why aren’t you using your US passport?” Then he began to ask deeper questions, “What are your religious beliefs? Have you ever had any military training? Have you ever been to Africa or the Middle East? How do you feel about what is happening in Syria and Iraq?” He looked through Parker’s phone to see who he had been texting and who he had been emailing. Then it got even deeper, “Any scars, tattoos or distinguishing marks?”
“Well, yeah. I have quite a few tattoos,” said Parker.
“I have Doctor Manhattan on my right forearm and elbow. And I have the Silver Surfer on my right shoulder.” Agent Gonzales chuckled.
“Alright, give me your backpack. Do you have any checked luggage? We are going to pull that and search it too.”
They took his bag and left the room. I don’t know what happened during the search of his bag and checked luggage, but I think it might have gone something like this:
Agent Lee: “What do you think. Pretty suspicious, isn’t it?”
Agent Gonzales: “I don’t know, he seems like more of a hipster than a terrorist. The beard is a thing now, didn’t you know?”
Agent Lee: “Let’s look through his stuff and see. What’s this? The complete Judge Dread collection? Judge Dread – Judge, Jury and Executioner. Sounds pretty violent to me. Someone who feels he is morally obligated to punish people for their supposed wrongs. Fits the jihadist profile.”
Agent Gonzales: “Yeah, but graphic novels are in now. And look at the music on his iPhone. Neutral Milk Hotel. Imminent Starvation. Winterkalte. Who has heard of any of these bands? He must be a hipster.”
Agent Lee: “They could be ISIS sympathizers with coded messages in their songs. I’m still not convinced. Let’s see what else this guy has.”
The next item they came to was Parker’s MacBook.
Agent Lee: “OK, I was wrong. This guy is carrying a Mac. Only artsy fartsy non-violent liberal types would use these.”
Agent Gonzales: “You’re right. Jihadists would only use PCs. This guy is definitely a hipster.”
I am not sure if that is exactly how the conversation went, but in the end they gave Parker back his stuff and told him to be on his way. He successfully made it to Istanbul to join us. But somehow I think he is probably on a Homeland Security list somewhere, “Parker Mossop – Hipster.”