I must admit to being a little nervous on my return to the United States last Friday. Sure, as the holder of a coveted green card (a permanent resident) I should have had nothing to worry about, but after 9/11, I expect Immigration and Customs to be suspicious of everyone — especially strange oriental-looking dudes like me.
As a seasoned traveler, I make it a point to go through Immigration looking my best. I know that a visa does not guarantee entrance into a country: that decision is made by the Immigration officer on the spot, and since you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, I am extremely fastidious about my appearance.
I have found that the more respectable you look, the less trouble you have; the less you look like a hippie, the less questions you have to answer. I make sure that I am clean-shaven, wearing slacks, an open collared shirt (not denim jeans and a T-shirt) and carrying a decent suitcase (not a backpack).
Except, this time abroad, I had become a sannyasi (a renounced monk). So there I was, returning to the States, for the first time dressed in long, flowing, saffron-colored sannyasi robes and sandals, with short hair and a sikha (tuft of hair) on the back of my head...
No worries, though. My green card gives me the green light, and I am back in the country that I have lived in for the past twenty years.