Thursday, December 15, 2011

Circular Conversations at Customs

There happened to be a good friend from school on my flight from Newark to Ottawa yesterday. We didn't plan it that way but we were pleased to have some catch-up time throughout the cab-rides and layovers. Naturally we were chatting while waiting in the customs line, until I approached the weedy French Canadian with a friendly, "good afternoon". His blonde hair was shaved to the nub, and he had an expression on his face that said I'd rather be wearing mirrored aviators...

He responded to my greeting with, "who is that you are traveling with?"

Uh, I am traveling alone.


Yes, alone.

Who was that guy you were talking to then?

Um, a friend, but we aren't traveling together. [What are you, a jealous boyfriend??]

You are on a flight together but not traveling together, hey?

Yes, I bought my ticket separately, we live in different know him from some classes we took together.  [Confused and now flustered at this strange line of questioning, I think I probably sound like a drug smuggler].

Where do you live then?

I live in Small Town Ireland.

And where do you go to school?

At University in Ireland.

And what are these classes? [Smirking like I am about to say, 'nude sculpting']

Um...medicine classes? [Am I a complete imbecile? When have I ever described my education as 'medicine classes??'] 

What are you studying at University of Ireland?

Oh right, medicine, I am studying medicine. I am a medical student. [The lady doth say 'medicine' too much, methinks...]

And you are in Canada for just 25 days then?

Yes. [Hello, I am a Canadian citizen I can be in Canada for as MANY BLOODY DAYS AS I WANT!!!]

He tosses my passport onto the desk and motions to next person in line. I collect my luggage and walk through gate to see Tobie's smiling face. Until we reach the safe confines of his car my head continues to dart around waiting for customs to taser me or demand a bag / body search.

What is it with these uniformed misanthropists? Is it that their job is so bad that they feel the need to be acrimonious power-trippers? Are they actually not allowed to smile, or be polite, engage in socially acceptable forms of communication? I was so annoyed, wishing I could delete the whole welcome home to Canada experience.

The great part is I am home. Sorta. At least I am in the motherland, where the "hot" and "cold" tap are one, my 'accent' doesn't attract attention, and soy milk comes in more than one brand / flavor.

Oh, complete me. [Sighs]


Anonymous said...

I have had this sort of thing happen to me on a few occasions. The most recent was when I was coming home from Tanzania, and the check-in agent could not get her head around the fact that I was not travelling with the guy who I knew a little and had been talking to in the line. To be clear, I was checking in for a multi-flight itinerary that would eventually get me to English City and he was checking in for a flight to Nairobi, but they tried three times to check him and his luggage in all the way to English City with me.

Albinoblackbear said...

That. Is. Awesome. Hahahah, wow.

OMDG said...

Is it that their job is so bad that they feel the need to be acrimonious power-trippers?


Yay you get to see Tobie!!! Have a wonderful holiday ABB!

Liana said...

My husband and I got hassled by a customs agent on our way back from Vegas. We didn't declare anything because we had been there on a 3 week climbing trip and the agent proceeded to go through every receipt in my purse and my husband's wallet trying to find foreign purchases (but there weren't any). Then he opened our luggage and lo and behold, found a set of $80 steak knives that my cousin had given us as a belated wedding gift at the start of the trip and that we'd completely forgotten about.

He told us that he could seize the knives, fine us up to $2000 and that we could be prosecuted and go to jail for 2 years. As a final flourish, he added that he could make sure that I would "lose those fancy letters at the end of your name" (he figured out I was a doctor while rifling through my purse).

Power trippers. Yes.

Albinoblackbear said...

OMDG--Thanks! Yes--YAY!!! :)

Liana--Oh my!! That ranks right up at the top of 'worst customs stories I have ever heard'. Unbelievable!!

Mike Looney said...

And all this time I thought it was just US custom agents that were power trippers. Seem to come with the job in general

Solitary Diner (Also Known as The Frugalish Physician) said...

Welcome home! Have a fabulous vacation.

Christopher said...

When I visit my girlfriend in Ontario I have the opposite experience.

Canadian customs agents barely look at my passport, ask me one or two questions (small talk mostly), and then wish me a good trip.

However, when I return to the States I encounter exactly what you did. They seem incredulous I'd spend time away from the US, let alone date a foreigner.

Now, at both sides I get funny looks when I exclaim that I can't even tell the difference between the two countries!

Anonymous said...

At my last trip abroad, I made the mistake of dropping my passport across the customs desk while the customs officers was talking to my GF. Instinctively, I reached out to grab it and - I kid you not - was judo chopped away by the customs officer.

My wrist hurt for two days.

Neuroscience PhD said...

A coworker from Edmonton flew home from her post-doc position in San Diego for Christmas one year. The Canadian customs official actually gave her a 2-week visa for her own country and told her to make sure she left on time. We were pondering what would have happened had she overstayed her visa.

Being frequent US-CAN border-hoppers, we've had grief from both sides. Taking children or pets seem to add credibility to your life.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was that powdered donut you ate right before going through the line that gave them the wrong idea?