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Living in USA: The funny side of immigration

Updated on June 23, 2019
FIL-AM VIEW profile image

Carmelita is happily married to an awesome man from Oklahoma for 33 years now. It all started by mail - thanks to her childhood friend!


Language barrier is the funniest part of living here in America in which comedians can’t get enough of. There’s a plethora of sad stories available online and paperback books, and quite a few articles or blogs about the funny side of immigration. A former late night talk show host poked fun on a former President. In one of his segments, he stated, “President ----- also said in his speech that immigrants have to learn English. The immigrants said, ‘Hey, you first.”

Contrary to some beliefs, living in America is nothing like the hackneyed phrases: “greener pasture, bed of roses, pot of gold, etc.” Our social struggles to fit-in are obviously more than the natives, and deficiency in speaking the country's vernacular is one of them. There are actually more gut wrenching than bone tickling anecdotes. This article is meant to make you laugh than cry. When times are hard - think of the TNT story. This is an excerpt from my book “Laugh Or Cry Your Way to America - And Make It.” I’m still trying to get it published, but it's another funny story - so funny I can't laugh.

My friend, Joel Agustin, recounted this incident as we were heading home from church long time ago, and you can imagine us laughing hysterically. Wherever you are now buddy, I owe this one to you.

“TNT can I help you?”

Many years ago, when cell phones and credit cards were just starting to get trendy, Dan (pronounced as “done” in Tagalog), a Filipino, over extended his stay in California. He came to the US armed with a tourist visa. Life moved on so fast, and before he knew it - his visa expired. Lured by the amenities and lifestyle offered by America, he decided not to come back to the Philippines, albeit knowing full well his decision will put him in the illegal alien category. Living like a nomad, he moved countless times to avoid deportation. He officially joined the TNT bandwagon. As a banter, Filipinos call illegal immigrants TNT (Tago Nang Tago) which means in English, “Always hiding.”

One eventful night, while on his way to visit a relative who lives on the outskirts of the city, he felt apprehensive when he saw the police car trailing him, as he glanced at his rear-view mirror. Panic creeping, his body started trembling as he began to assume the cop is following him purposely. He was suddenly consumed with the frightful thought that someone had tipped off the police that he is a TNT. Dan became more agitated when he noticed his gas was getting real low, so he searched for a gas station as he still had quite a ways to go. He sighed with great relief when he spotted a gas station up ahead. Just when he thought things are getting better, he was faced with another huge challenge when he realized that the gas station had been modernized with the credit card payment option. Dan blurted, “How in the world am I going to use this!” Call it a coincidence or whatever, the police stopped at the gas station too.

Dan stood frozen in front of the gas pump. Still puzzled at the new technology while trying to ignore the cop's presence, series of questions raced through his head: "How should I pay with credit card? What is a credit card?" (TNT's always pay in cash). Time stood still as he tried to figure things out. The cashier took notice of Dan’s anguished expression in front of the gas pump. Feeling helpful, he went out of his post to offer assistance. The cashier asked Dan, “Are you going to use Visa?” Color escaped Dan's perfectly tanned face as he thought to himself, “Oh my God (today you’d exclaim OMG)! He’s asking for my visa!” Dan thought the guy was asking for his immigration visa. Stammering uncontrollably, he answered, “Hold on please! I’m going to call my cousin!” He went to the public pay phone and dialed long distance. The first thing he heard was the company greeting: “AT&T can I help you?” Dan thought the customer service representative said, "TNT can I help you?" He exclaimed, “Oh no! They know I’m TNT!” As if things weren’t bad enough, the police approached him and asked, “Are you done?” His world started spinning upon hearing the cop's question. The last thought he remembered was, “Oh my God! He knows my name is Dan (again, most Filipinos pronounced Dan as done) and he’s taking me to jail!” He thought the police was asking him if he’s Dan. His body could not take what's going on any longer – poor Dan passed out!


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