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I don’t remember very many stories that my Grandfather told me when I was little. However, I never forgot this story and it became one of my all-time favourites…

Here it is:

Ellis Island, New York City
Circa: Late 1940’s

A tired and weary husband and wife had just disembarked from a ship after a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. They had decided to leave the old country and emigrate to North America in search of a new and better life.

The husband and wife were systematically submitted to medical checks, with routine questioning and all the usual scrutinizing. This took a great deal of time. They waited in one line-up after another and learned that you needed a great deal of patience while being processed through the never ending channels of American immigration.

At last they were summoned into an office and there behind a heavy wooden desk sat an important looking immigration officer.

He asked them to sit down and they immediately obliged and sat down in the chairs provided for them.

“Please tell me your names.” He asked the both the man and the woman

They both told him their very long and European sounding names.

His next question was:

“What country were you born in?”

The husband told the officer where they were each born.

For his third question he turned his attention to the pheasant lady in the long cotton skirt and old woolen shawl…

He was highly doubtful that the woman would be able to understand the following question being asked in the English language:

“How old are you?”

She thought for a moment, wrinkled her nose at him and blurted out…

“I am dirty.”

“No, madam, I asked how old you are.”

“I am dirty.”

The immigration officer was beginning to get annoyed with this pheasant woman.

“Yes I understand that, but what I’m asking you is your age.”

“Dirty, dirty, dirty… I tell you I am dirty.”

Frustrated with this woman’s lack of communication skills the customs officer turned to the husband.

Trying to keep his risinge temper in check, he then asked the man…

“How old are you?

The husband’s expression did not change as he looked right at the immigration official and answered:

“I am dirty-too.”