Leaving the Tijuana airport as Sunday became Monday, Rosario and I stood in the cold air, waiting for the taxi. After a delayed return flight from Guanajuato, we prepared ourselves for what border traffic we might encounter. On a typical Sunday night at this hour, you can expect to cross in an hour or less. But this was the Sunday end to Thanksgiving weekend. And anytime there’s a U.S. holiday, border traffic is exponential.
The taxi drops us at Rosario’s sister’s home, where the trusty Nissan Frontier waits. We transfer luggage to the truck and head like zombies for the Otay crossing. When we arrive at 1:30 a.m., there are only two short, thin lines. “Mira, it’s not so bad,” I say to a reclined Rosario. I undo my seatbelt and make myself comfortable for what should take 30 to 40 minutes. At this hour, the customs agents typically work slower than normal, but after 45 minutes and only advancing 10 cars, I start having my doubts. Cars continue to gather in other rows, to the point that I no longer have an exit option. After asking a passing window washer, and seeing cars turn and head back, my half-conscious mind realizes the lanes are closed. No one is getting through.
I see a brief opening between cars and shove my way into the outside lane, making an overdue escape. Too tired to be outwardly angry, I take my grumpiness to San Ysidro to give it another shot. Otay is supposed to be open 24 hours, but because it’s a secondary entry point, it can be less consistent. We arrive at San Ysidro to much longer lines full of sleeping cars, lights and engines off. “Let’s just go to a hotel to sleep,” Rosario offers. But I’m not in the mood. I want to sleep in my bed tonight even if it’s just for a few hours. “Let’s just sleep in the SENTRI lane. It opens in a couple hours,” I decide.
It’s now 3 a.m. as we pull alongside one other car already waiting in the lane. I put it in park, turn off the engine, and pull out the laptop to play solitaire. I hit a second wind, now unable to sleep. After a half-hour losing repeatedly at the Vegas-style three-card game, I take out the camera.
At 4 a.m., the lane opens and we cross the line. The final leg of the drowsy marathon came to a close another half-hour later, and sleep came soon thereafter. As a privileged member of the SENTRI program, my heart goes out to all of my compas who were already beginning their workweek as I recoup a few hours sleep under the high thread-count sheets and synthetic down comforter of my king-sized bed.