I’m not what you’d call a jet-setter.
I’ve traveled across Canada and to a few places in the U.S., but that’s about it. I did take a tour bus from San Diego to Tijuana once with my wife. We had death grips on our wallets the whole time – very cool!
A little tip for travelers to the ‘lovely’ city south of the border. Order drinks that come pre-bottled and don’t have any ice or other locally added ingredients. Let’s just say that the whale-watching tour later didn’t end well for us.
One thing you’ll notice if you ever use a ground route to Mexico, is that getting there is like walking into a Walmart. Everyone is opening doors and greeting you. The return trip to California is a bit more intrusive.
Maybe I’ve been watching too much ‘Breaking Bad’, but it doesn’t seem to matter how honest or prepared you are. When those customs officers start asking questions, you feel like you’re smuggling a kilo of heroin taped to your inner thigh. Sweat forms on your forehead, you get jittery and stumble around simple questions like “Where are you coming from?”
“Toronto! No, well, Oshawa. Well, it’s actually Courtice, which is a little community in Clarington, but it’s near Oshawa which is near Toronto. We used to live there – Oshawa, I mean – but moved a few years ago because of some drug activity near our house. Not that I was involved with that kind of thing, hee, hee,….”.
By now, even I’m convinced I’m smuggling something.
I was in Kansas City once, traveling on business with a small group of coworkers. We had a quick overnight trip, and I was desperate to get a fix of great Kansas City Barbeque.
I didn’t get a chance to savor the smoked cuisine, but I ‘allegedly’ picked up a bottle of locally made barbeque sauce to remember the trip by – the REAL Kansas City stuff, too!
My ‘alleged’ sauce was too big to carry on, ever since 9/11, but I stuck it in my bag anyway. It went right through the little x-ray machine – no problem.
A coworker wasn’t so lucky. Her medicated hand-cream set off every alarm in the place and she ended up getting ‘thoroughly’ searched right there in front of everyone.
I had to cross the border from Niagara Falls into Buffalo with a couple of coworkers once, to…um….’observe’ local workers set up a new store.
One of my passengers had never been to the U.S. before, and just received his very first passport. He looked like a drug mule in one of those Quentin Tarantino movies.
I joked with him while we idled in the car about how he felt about getting a cavity search. He nearly threw up.
As we inched towards the customs booth, my friend handed over his passport. I jokingly said ‘Hey, this picture looks almost exactly like you!’. I think they can hear you.
Sure enough, we got flagged for further inspection. My friend was NOT amused.
We were asked to leave the vehicle, and proceed inside for further screening. Now I was scared. I don’t know why. I wasn’t doing anything illegal, I wasn’t smuggling anything over the border, and all my paperwork was completely legitimate. So, why was I so nervous?
I’ll tell you why. When we walked into that stark, plain brick building, there was nothing in front of us except a large, stainless steel examination table and a huge woman with blue latex gloves on.
All I could think of, was ‘Gee, I just wish I could go and freshen up first’, seeing as I was about to become intimate with this total stranger in ways I surely didn’t want.
Turns out that my coworkers name was a common one, and it popped up on a warning list somewhere. Once they confirmed he wasn’t their man, we were sent on our way.
I guess the problem with all this screening stuff, is it’s turning good, honest hard working folks into international criminal suspects every time they want to go on vacation. Does this mean the terrorists are winning?
Now, not all customs screenings are bad. I was in Newfoundland, on my way home, and I was late. This little airport was so small, that as I walked in the main doors of the terminal, I could see the pilot through the glass, standing proudly next to his plane, waving at me.
I rushed through those metal detectors, and set off the alarms. The kindly lady with the thick ‘Newfie’ accent suggested I empty my pockets and ‘Give it another go, me love’.
Twice I walked through and set off alarms, while the pilot stood patiently on the tarmac watching this comedy routine take place. He was cheering me on, for Pete’s sake!
Finally, the ‘Down ‘omer’ customs officer asked me, very politely, “Would ya maybe want one a da male officers to pat you down, Love?”
“Not even a little bit”, was my reply.
3rd time’s a charm, and I walked through one last time, getting a green light. I think everyone in the terminal, including the 3 customs officers, clapped as I put my belt and shoes back on.
The pilot shook my hand and helped me on to the plane. what a great place to be searched!
If you ever want an intrusive foray of questions and bodily searches done on you, go to Newfoundland, my friend. They’ll make it feel like a kitchen kaylie….look it up.
P.S. – stay away from Tijuana.