August 23, 2010

Canadian Border Crossings

Yesterday we flew back from Vancouver where we spent the past several days for Esperando’s work. The weather was beautiful and we ate at some really great restaurants.

Esperando tried to check us in online, but for some peculiar reason he couldn’t acquire my boarding pass. Our flight didn’t leave until 4 pm, so we waited around for one last lunch at our new favorite sushi restaurant Oysi Oysi. I am on a lowfat diet and Esperando is on the Atkins diet—Japanese food works really well for us as we can both have the raw fish and salads. The wait staff is super friendly. We ate there 5 days in a row we liked it so well.

Oysi Oysi means yummy, yummy in Japanese.

We decided to get to the airport a little early—it was Sunday and not much was open downtown. We tried to check in at the United kiosk at the airport, but again my boarding pass wouldn’t pop up. We had to get the agent to print it out for us. I guess we were just too dumb. When I finally got my boarding pass I had the dreaded four S’s on it, which meant I had been singled out for a special random security check. Lucky me. In the past when this has happened (and I seem to have had more than my fair share of times), Esperando has been excluded. But somehow in the intervening months since the last time, he was glued to my fate for better or worse. Those security guys probably felt sorry for the left out spouses and have decided the more the merrier.

When you get the four S's the wisest course of action is just to turn around and go back home.

Now we shunted off into the special high security section. Before we passed through your standard metal detector the security guy advised us we would be searched on the other side and had the option of a hand pat-down or the much maligned Whole Body Imaging Scan. On the other side we passed into the control of two guards who asked us whether we wanted to be frisked or scanned. We both elected to be scanned which took about 5 seconds. I hope those guys were blinded by my Medusa-type fat middle-aged body, serves them right I say! After that we came back to the table holding our computers, purse, backpack, shoes and wraps. A guy took our boarding passes and proceeded to check each item out with the explosive swab test, not allowing us to handle anything until it was checked, determined to be free of explosive residue, and then individually handed back over to us, a process that took about 15 minutes. We had to open our computers to show that they were not bombs and they if they had been we would have been the ones to have been blown away first.

Now Esperando and I went to a lot of trouble when we lived in Canada several years ago to drive an hour away to the U.S. border to apply for Nexus cards so could be deemed reliably trustworthy individuals who would sell all their children to the government for slave labor if we ever broke any kind of law here or in Canada. Having a Nexus card meant we could avoid waiting in long lines at immigration after gettng off the plane. We had to answer all kinds of detailed questions about our life history and residences, stuff you hope you will always remember but are afraid you will forget as your brain ages. You get a secret password that you better write down as it is super complicated—and woe to you when you can’t remember your security questions. It makes me tremble even now to think of getting on line with them. If you fail to get everything right, after the third time your access to their website is locked down permanently. Having gone through the whole rigamarole and having cards issued we thought we were now cool dudes. However the dreaded four S’s supercedes any previous cool dude status and we were next hauled off to a place that was actually labeled 'Detention Area for Baggage and Individuals' while our bags were retrieved so they could be hand inspected. Cops with guns on their hips cruised around in case anyone tried to make a break for it.

We were now seated in a room of equally criminally minded people who sat cooling their heels while their bags were likewise retrieved. We were all guilty until proven innocent.  A new couple came in and sat by us. They had been through this before and missed their flight one time because it took so long to be processed. The woman stated that the government had to keep doing this to, "keep us good and scared." Esperando and I had lots of time to wait and weren't in danger of missing our flight, but it was annoying to be treated like a criminal. Somehow our bags were not cooperating with a positive attitude, refusing to be found and since they couldn’t find them we were stuck. Finally after what seemed like forever our bags decided to make an appearance. Lots of other people had come and gone. Our bags were re-processed through the X-ray machine. We were asked if we had anything we wanted to declare, why we had come to Canada and how long we had stayed? I tell you they don't want us or our money there really. The government already has its own citizens paying for everything through the nose, why would they want Americans to come in and throw a few bucks around and lighten the load? I tell you next time you will have to drag me kicking and screaming into Canada. This time they have finally convinced me that I do not belong there, even if my forebears did land there 300 years ago, at least they had the sense to leave.

This was just a random check, but those security people are so hostile they make you feel guilty for everything you ever did in your entire life while you sit waiting. The have no sense of humor. The only thing I know for sure you must tolerate their hostility without cracking and making a snippy remark, or they will hound you across the border forever. We know—we have friends who are in that boat, too.

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