I went to Canada again this past weekend. The line wasn’t very long at customs, so I got excited. Then I pulled up to the booth and saw one of those tough, serious-looking jerks who immediately causes you to expect the worst. It turned cold almost immediately. Somehow, talk of my purpose in entering Canada quickly turned to “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” and “Are you a criminal?” After the second time he asked me if I was a criminal, I noticed my hand shaking. I was so angry, so insulted that this man would ask me this question twice, that my hand was shaking. I rested it on the door to stop the tremor, but it was too late. I could already see him writing on a piece of paper, meaning a secondary inspection was in the offing. Not before he asked me to hold my hand up for his inspection, though.
“Is your hand shaking?”
“Ok, pull over into the secondary inspection area.”
I parked my car and headed inside the building. I was again asked if I was a criminal. The officer also asked me why they might search a car. Something about that question insulted me even more. You want me to tell you why you are violating my human rights? You want me to be complicit? Finally he asked me for my cell phone (they like you to be silent and helpless) and my keys. I told him that I wanted to be present during any search of my vehicle.
“Is there anything I should know? Are you hiding anything?”
“No, I just don’t like how my property was treated last time this happened.”
“You can watch through the window.”
After ten minutes of wasted time, Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee walked out to my car. I watched through the window as they swung my doors open and shut, probed my seats, tugged at the floor and then went through the trunk. Drug search, obviously. Because drug smugglers would really pick a guy with conspicuous Ohio plates to smuggle drugs into Canada. Eventually they came back in and told me I was free to go.
“I’ve got a question. Why is it I’m searched so frequently going into Canada?”
“Your hand was shaking.”
“Do you know why my hand was shaking? Because I’m not used to being treated like a criminal and asked insulting questions over and over. Do you know what that feels like?”
My tone of voice remained measured, soft and respectful, but the supervisor noticed me talking to his officer at this point and walked over. He took over the discussion.
“We’re trying to catch criminals here. If I had the manpower, I would search every vehicle.”
Waste your time and money pissing on my rights by searching every vehicle so you can catch a few criminals. Guilty until proven innocent, indeed.
The other highlight came when I told them about my laptop being searched the previous time.
“Do you know what it feels like to have someone take your computer away and search it without you even being present?”
“We’re trying to catch pedophiles.”
“By making innocent people feel like criminals?”
“What about the innocent children? I’d search 1000 hard drives to catch just one pedophile.”
These are the sort of people you deal with crossing the border. I tried to get them time and again to understand they are dealing with humans, not just robots driving cars. We have rights and feelings. But they shut down immediately, always with some stock response about crossing the U.S. border. Even when I told them that I’d written extensively about my displeasure with the way the U.S. treats people crossing our borders and that two wrongs don’t make a right, it fell on deaf ears.
Oh, and the best part? I heard a knocking noise all the way to Vancouver. When I got there, I was about to lift the hood to take a peek at the engine when I noticed they hadn’t even closed the hood. That was my knocking sound, a loose hood. A loose hood that could have presumably flown open and effectively blinded me. Thanks, guys.