We were heading back to San Diego on Interstate 5 about three miles north of the Mexican border when the flashing red and blue lights appeared behind the car. We pulled over wondering what was up.
Minute earlier we had driven to The Fence, the hulking steel and concrete barrier that was constructed over the last decade to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States. We followed a two-lane road right up to structure, parked the car and took pictures in front of it.
Rex had mentioned several times that we might raise the interest of Border Patrol officers in the area, but several B.P. vehicles had passed us without hitting their brakes.
Ten minutes later we were headed back to San Diego when the Border Patrol officer flipped on his strobes behind us.
The officer asked Rex where we had been. "We went to The Fence," Rex replied. "What were you doing there?" the officer asked. "Taking pictures," Rex said. By the time he asked for our ID's Rex had had enough.
"Why have you pulled us over? Have we done anything wrong?" Rex demanded.
The officer tried to remain polite, saying 15 aliens had tried to enter the country through a tube below The Fence in the very area we had been taking pictures and that he was just making sure we weren't Mexicans.
Rex continued to protest. Was the stop legal? Weren't we obviously legal U.S. citizens? Hadn't the officer already run a check on our license plate?
The officer started getting pissed, insisting he had every right to pull us over under some 1950's immigration law.
It was, quite literally, a Mexican standoff.
The officer was determined to check our ID's, if for nothing else but to prove that he hadn't done anything wrong. And Rex was determined to thwart him, if for nothing else but to prove a point.
Meanwhile, I was on the verge of a conniption.
In my part of the world (as our president loves to say of New Orleans) you don't question cops about anything, and if you do it could cost you a ton in ticket fines, a punch in the stomach, a whack across the head or maybe even a bullet in the chest.
I was imagining the two of us splayed across the hood of the car with a gun pointed at us.
Instead, cooler heads prevailed. Rex and I turned over our ID's. The officer gave them an cursory glance. Then he wished us a pleasant night as he handed them back.