I went to the United States last weekend - for the last time! Andrew was off with his girlfriend for the weekend, so I thought I'd opt for some "Tim Time" and go visit a friend in America.
The signs weren't positive right from the "git-go." The lineup was rather long - it was a Saturday, stupid and Canadians were going down to shop (don't get me started on that!) - and what was advertised as a 30-minute wait turned out to be more than an hour, not counting my time in what is known as secondary inspection.
The woman who examined my enhanced driver's licence and asked the usual questions told me to park the truck and go inside.
All right, I'm already a little confused. Did I appear nervous, anxious, have I been listening to too many nasty border-crossing stories? Such as the four women in Eastern Canada who launched lawsuits against border guards for sexual molestation. Or a family friend, a woman in her 70s, who was strip-searched at the border, speculation being that she was driving a motorhome and may have been suspected of smuggling. What? Geritol? Fish oil? Calcium supplements?
I don't go to the States that often, so I may have understandably been a bit nervous, in light of the fact that the last time I ventured down there I was asked to go inside as well.
Do I look like a terrorist? Does this woman decide, based on a three-hour, body language interpretation course, that I am a risk?
Once I got inside, these were some of the questions I intended to ask. But first, there wasn't even a pretense of politeness or civility in the BGs' approach: I found them rude, confrontational, intimidating, demanding to know why I was going to the States, who I was going to see, what was the nature of our relationship, when was the last time you were down, what is your wife's name, do you have a criminal record, have you ever been arrested, had your fingerprints taken, what do you do for a living, etc, etc.
Do you have any fruit or vegetables (turned out I forgot about an apple in my bag, which, when I remembered, led them to call me a liar). They wanted to check the truck. When I moved to accompany the officer, he told me, in no uncertain terms, to stay where I was.
When I asked to use the washroom, I had to empty my pockets. I'm surprised my Swiss Army knife didn't get me arrested then and there.
I can understand, in light of 9-11 and the drug traffic and illegal aliens, that they want to be ultra-scrupulous in the performance of their duties. But as a law-abiding, retired postal worker (maybe that was it: they thought I'd be up on the roof firing at passersby!), I expected just a modicum of respect or civility or politesse and not to be treated as if I was being admitted to Guantanamo Bay.
These guys really need some interpersonal skills training. Are they like this at home: does a border guard drill his children before they leave for school, demanding to know where they're going and if they have any fruit in their lunch bag ("All right, Jimmy, spread 'em. I'm looking for candy.")?
I asked why they picked me out, and was given a bunch of crap about their training and the fact that I hadn't been down there for two or three years (so what?!) and they couldn't be too careful. Well, they don't have to worry about me any more!
Lest we forget: I will, of course, be at the Remembrance Day service thinking of my parents, veterans both, who helped save democracy from the Nazis and Fascists; and I will be thinking that it was a shame they couldn't have helped save us from arrogant, insensitive border guards.