Friday, November 04, 2005

Notes from my Trip to Texas (1st in a series)

I was sent down on a business trip this week to the head office in a Dallas suburb (my employer shall remain nameless here). It's a company that deals in cutting-edge Point of Sale (POS) technology for the world of retail. My job is to write process documentation for a helpdesk here in Montreal, and this trip was about me giving an assist to someone hired to design a similar structure for their larger helpdesk there. It was my first visit south of the border in five years or so. These are some random thoughts on the Lone Star state, and the state of George W. Bush's America from a Canadian visitor's viewpoint:

Part 1 - Getting past the Dept. of Homeland Security:
The official at P.E. Trudeau Airport was my first contact with an American on my trip. I think she was just returning from lunch as she got in her box and smiled me over to tell her why the fuck she should let the likes of me into her country.

"Where's your passport?" she asked when I presented my official english copy Quebec Birth Certificate and my driver's license.
"I don't have one," I said.
"You should get one," she lectured.
"I understood that it isn't necessary," I said.
"Not yet, but it will be December 12th," she said.
"Not if Frank McKenna's lobbying is effective, and anyway, today is October 31st and therefore, you have no right to act like having a passport is in any way necessary you smug pencil-pushing ignoramous," I smartly refrained from saying in the ensuing pause while she typed away and looked vacantly at her screen.

"Have you ever been arrested?" she asked in the way you would ask a person if they've ever tried sushi. "No," I said (accurately), trying not to skip a beat or sound anything but amicable.

Then we got to the part about the reason for my trip. Business. And what did I need to do there that couldn't be done here in Canada? (I had been waiting for this part - my boss had even prepped me. Apparently, if you make the mistake of using the word "consultant" at any time, this raises some flag with them and they make you sit in a room and wait for other officials to do more grilling. "So just say that you're going to be sharing best-business practices," my boss had coached me.) "I'm going to be sharing best-business practices," I said by rote. This seemed to placate her, as the questions stopped.

After about 20 more seconds of again typing and looking vacantly at her screen, she turned to make her pronouncement. As she spoke, her voice trailed with the sort of resignation that suggested she only gets bonuses if she finds a potential terrorist to be scooped up to some place like Syria for their sweet brand of year-long "questioning"; and sadly, I was evidently not helping bring that bonus so far today. "Go ahead."

"Yes'm. Thank you kindly ma'am. Bless you ma'am," I resisted saying sardonically as I left. If I had a cap I could clutch in my hands sheepishly, who knows if I would've been able to keep my sarcasm in check.

- 30 -

Next up: landing at 9:30 p.m. on Hallowe'en at DFW, the world's third-largest airport.

6 comments:

heyday said...

I guess that custom agent would need thoses "best-business practices".Hope you had a nice trip anyways.

Can't wait to read about your 9:30pm landing on Halloween day in Texax.....I'm sure your Osama Bin Laden costume made a "blast"!!!

GoodGrief said...

I thought when they held up those hydro trucks at the Peace bridge for 7 hours, it was going from ridiculous to paranoia, expecially as all those folks wanted to do was to get to Florida to help out the folks battered by Wilma. Guess there will be more of the same till this is over.
Love the first installment. Waiting for the rest with anticipation.

CathiefromCanada said...

I have to admit that the idea of going to the States now scares me -- can hardly wait for your next installment.

tech98 said...

They treat everybody like that.
I'm a 30-ish white US citizen of conventional appearance and I'm consistently treated with sneering contempt and suspicion entering through LAX.

The contrast with the businesslike-but-recognizeably-human Australian Immigration is jarring.

I think the only unfriendlier border crossing I've been through other than the US, was Estonia just after it split from the Soviet Union.

Anonymous said...

Geez louise, take a look at this -http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110501366_pf.html
Seems that our government has an agreement/plan with our US buddies to create common North American policies called (euphemistically) Deep Integration. if this is true, then the link provided re the National security letters in the US could also affect us. Per the vivelecanada site (http://www.vivelecanada.ca/staticpages/index.php/ribbon)
I know -conspiracy theories abound, but isn't this how the Wehrmacht consolidated their power?

GoodGrief said...

Deep Integration is just the start. Did you hear about the NSL -National Security letters - that the FBI are using to investigate U.S. Citizens? http://www.aclu.org/nsl/
And if our government is in bed with the current U.S. government, what's happening here?
I don't want to get caught up in the old "Conspiracy theory" crap, but this is troubling. Already, the U.S. has access to private records on Canadians via their credit card files, but how far does this go? Makes the Mahar Arar case look rather sinister, doesn't it.