Enjoying The Visitor last night at the Drexel reminded me of my own experience with the INS.

It was on a day trip to Toronto to visit some clients with my long-standing colleague Michael, a native Canadian.

After the day’s meetings, we were on our way back to the airport. We were hours early, so we stopped at a pub and had a couple beers. Michael paid. He didn’t have to. It was a formality. He would submit the receipts the next day and be reimbursed. I could have paid, but Michael said, "Let me get it."

At the Toronto airport, we passed through Immigration (back into the United States) before going to our gate. It’s done on the Canadian side.

Michael, ever gracious, insisted that I go first.

I stood at the white box with the Immigration agent and showed my passport. I was waved on. I turned to wait for Michael.

He was gone. Vanished. Nowhere to be seen.

I stepped back to the white box and asked, "Where is my colleague? Where did he go?"

"He’s in that room," said the agent, pointing to a door on the Canadian side of the immigration room.

"What’s going on in that room?" I asked.

"I don’t know and can’t tell you," replied the agent. "The little sign on the door says only, ‘Meeting in Progress.’" Further questions yielded no answers.

After some time waiting, I thought I should go to the gate and try to hold the plane.

Are you Arthur Isaac?
At the departure gate, I asked the gate agent to hold the plane.

"We’ll do what we can, but we can’t wait too long," she said. Looking at my ticket she said, "We have two Arthur Isaacs on this flight."

"No, my colleague is Michael," I advised. "It must be a mistake in the reservation. Our flights were reserved together."

"No," she corrected. "We have Michael here, too. There is another Arthur Isaac. He’s already on the flight."

"You don’t say," I did say. "He’s already on the plane? May I be seated next to him?"

"Sure," she said, typing like an airline gate agent. "You’re now in 2B."

I boarded and looked at the man in 2A. He didn’t quite look like me, but it’s safe to say that he looked more like me than anyone else on the plane.

I sat down. "Are you Arthur Isaac?" I asked.

He looked a little surprised, wondering if he knew me. "Yes, I am."

"So am I," I said, handing him my business card.

We sat silently as he thoughtfully considered my business card. At first, he might have wondered, "What sort of criminal preys only on people named ‘Arthur Isaac’?" It’s not a common name. (It’s probably just a freak coincidence that it was also the name of my father and grandfather.)

We chatted and found out, of course, that our ancestors emigrated during the 1800s from the same town in southwestern Germany, Darmstadt in Hesse. Otherwise, we’d both lived in Columbus, Ohio, unaware of the other’s existence. Distant cousins, no doubt.

As we chatted, Michael did not board. The flight took off without him. The next day, back in Columbus, he told me that he was released in nearly enough time to catch the flight, except that he first had to pay a fee of $50. But, since he’d bought our drinks at the pub in the late afternoon, he was out of cash and the trip to the ATM caused him to miss our flight.

Here’s to Arthur Isaac and Michael, wherever you are.