Canadian Customs Fiasco

Do I Look Suspicious to You?

(Perhaps you shouldn’t answer that…) So I went to Canada (Ottawa) for the first time last month to attend a Nortel conference. At the airport, the incoming customs woman grilled me:

(The things I thought but didn’t say aloud are in [brackets])

“Business or pleasure?”

“Business.” […and I promise not to have any fun]

“Who do you work for?”

“Nortel.” [you know, Nortel, the *giant* Canadian company…]

“What will you be doing in Canada?”

“Attending a conference.” [surprisingly, I had no smart-ass remark…]

“Will you be speaking?”

“Well, I’m not a presenter.” […but I don’t think I’l be silent…]

So she took my passport and my declaration that I wasn’t bringing any nasty things into Canada and looked them over quite thoroughly before handing them back to me. The she left her little glassed-in box, and I walked through the gate and around the corner and down the hall and through the door …
…and…
there she was again…this time to take (permanently) my declaration that I wasn’t bringing any nasty things into Canada. I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her at this point — having to run all the way down the hall like that and then pretend that she hadn’t just scrutinized the very same set of documents! If it were me, I think I’d eventually have to give up the charade … “Okay, okay, just give me the declaration form now so I don’t have to run down the back hallway to collect it from you…”
So this wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it seemed a little excessive, considering how completely non-suspicious I look, but I understand the need that governmental functionaries have to do this sort of thing every now and again.

But what happened to me on my next trip to Canada (Toronto, this time) was completely out of control!!.

I was heading, along with the rest of my boss’ boss’ staff, for a meeting with my boss’ boss’ boss (and also, it turns out, her boss [which would be my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss, for those of you playing along at home]).  Aside: perhaps IBM has the right idea with the “second-line manager,” “third-line manager” idea… I was all dressed up for the meeting in my new chenille (schmozzle, hossenpepper incorporated) red sweater, my short black skirt and my cool black ankle boots with red spider-lookin’ things on top. I was ready for Canada.

Gary, my (watch me now!)… second-line manager, had a meeting that was supposed to start about an hour after we landed… at a facility that was about 45 mintues away.

No problem, right?

BBBBBBBBZZZZTTTT!  I’m sorry, but that answer is incorrect. Thank you for playing, though!

I had filled out my little card (no, I’m not bringing any any drugs; no, I’m not carrying huge wads of Canadian money with which I’ll upset the economic balance of the country; no, I’ve not got any sheep or other livestock tucked away in my carry-on) and had been advised by Pat, my boss, that short answers are better answers.

So when it was my turn in line and she asked me where I was going, I said Toronto. And when she asked me why, I said a Meeting. And when she asked me who I worked for, I said Nortel. And when she asked me what I did I said Web Development.

And that, I think, was my problem.

And she took out her pink highlighter and slashed her way across my declarations form (without telling me, BTW, what that meant!).

I was gamely trundling towards baggage claim behind Pat when a man intercepted me and said, “You’ll have to go in there.”

???!???!!

I was sooooooo confused. And then I saw the pink slashes of shame on the others’ cards and I knew…

I was UNDER SUSPICION.

I waited in line for 15-20 minutes while the folks in the Immigration Department grilled the unfortunates in front of me. And then it was my turn:

“Who do you work for?”

“Nortel” […oh, no, not this again!!!]

“Where are you going?”

“Toronto” […but I’m not coming back if you keep this up!]

“What are you here for?”

“A meeting”

“What kind of meeting”

“A meeting with the Director of Communications at Nortel”

“And what do you do?”

“I do development work for Nortel’s web site.”

“And where is that?”

[idiot alert! idiot alert] “… Um, on the Internet”

“And why are you coming here?”

[aaaaargh!!!!!] “To meet with him to plan the web site.”

“Do you have a business card or anything else that shows where you work?”

So this went on for a while. Apparently, they were trying to make sure I wasn’t an American who was taking jobs away from the Canadians by pretending I worked in the US while I was really (sneakily) working for Canadians.

…. right …

Either that, or it was the boots. ; )

In all fairness to Canada, though, I did enjoy my trip. I played pool at a really nifty pool hall called The Academy of Spherical Arts and ate a delicious dinner at a South American place called Xango. And had an extremely productive all-day meeting (well, it was a business trip, after all!)

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