“America! The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
That is my country! I am free and I am brave. And both of those facts hit home when we were headed north crossing the Bulgarian Border. Ron and I were driving a rental car with a German tag, which for some reason aroused suspicion. As we approached the border, we followed the traffic circle just as we thought we should. Turns out, we did it wrong and ended up cutting in line. Now in America, aside from a few stray fingers, you can apologize and laugh it off. At the Bulgarian border, not so much.
The border guard, angry dude that he was, rushed over to the passenger side of the car. I rolled down my window and he began screaming. SCREAMING! “Turks! Turks!” I used my form of international sign language for ‘don’t worry, be happy!’ putting my fingers on the sides of my cheeks and pulling out a smile. Apparently he didn’t understand my reference or appreciate my effort to bring a little levity into the situation.
The guard hauled back and through the open window, cold-cocked me! I was stunned. He broke my glasses and my temple was bleeding. The action that usually follows ‘stunned’ for me is ‘fight’, and in a swift motion I reached out, ripped off his tie and shouted “Americans, Americans!” and whipped out my passport.
When you are on foreign turf, neither word — Abracadabbra nor Shazam — work as well as the magic word: Americans! Suddenly there was the guard with a host of superior ‘big shots’ preparing to give us a ‘bloodless escort’ to the front of the line. They coddled us and apologized profusely. I gladly returned the guard’s tie and we went on our way.
Thank you America! Because I belong to the land of the free, I can be brave. But don’t underestimate the value of a smile. Just don’t bring it to the Bulgarian border crossing.