I have been living in America for almost a year now. I have a work visa to be here and I travel back and forth to Canada fairly often. A necessity for getting into either country is crossing the border. You'd think it would be easy to do with a visa, right? I have the proper papers to get in and out. But even with a visa, is this easy? Not really. Without a visa, was it easier? Kind of. Now that I'm allowed back and forth, they almost seem angrier with me than when I wasn't.
"What? You're allowed in here now? No, no, no. There has to be some kind of mistake. See, in America… we're American. You are Canadian. Do you see hear where the problem lies?"
The border is a necessary evil that has to be dealt with, but must everyone be so on edge? So angry? So uptight?
Since I have been crossing the border, it has always been a nerve-racking experience. There is nothing relaxed about it.
"Yes, here you g..."
"Haha. Just keeping you alert. Give me that passport."
I can only assume that it wasn't always like this. Maybe there was a point in time when crossing the border was fun.
"Hey! Well, how the hell are you? Want to come into our country, huh? Why'd you even stop? Get the hell in there and buy all the cigarettes you can!"
Probably not, but one can imagine.
When crossing the border, why are these people so rude? There isn't a group that you will have to deal with who is as rude as the border people.
"Sir, your ex-wife is on line two, and for some strange reason, a border guard is on line three."
"What? Dear God. Put me on with my ex-wife. At least she'll ask me how I'm doing, no matter how sarcastic."
Border guards have dead eyes and tones that suggest they would cut a small child in half without even thinking about it.
"It'd be nice if that kid would stop crying. I mean, I'm just trying to enjoy this Taco Bell in a food court."
"I'll handle it."
"Handle it? Yeah, wouldn't that be great? Just grab the kid and… WHOA! What the hell are you doing?! You just ripped that kid in half!"
"I work at the border. I haven't felt an emotion in years. Now, you were saying? About the food court?"
"Yeah... food court... I was... GOD, MAN! A kid in half!"
It seems to be the only place where you are expected to have the indifference of T-1000. What is the training like to be a border guard? What rigorous steps are taken to make sure that you feel no emotion whatsoever anymore?
"Guys, I don't know what you were told about this job, but you are going to be dealing with the public."
"That's great. I have a lot of training in customer service."
"Wow, that is great! You're fired. We are not looking for people who know how to deal with the public. We're looking for people who when they step onto a bus, no matter what time of day, they scare the other passengers."
"I don't know about PEOPLE, but I'm scared of pit bulls that come onto the bus."
"Exactly. That's why all of you will be participating in dog fighting."
"Yes. Dog fighting. You will be trained to become a dog, and then fight other dogs as a dog. And if you don't kill the other dog, you'll die, but not only that, you will not get this job. You want to make some money? You'll learn how to bite a throat."
Sometimes you'll go through the border, and the person you talk to is really nice. RARELY does that happen, and it's probably because that person is fired right away.
"Excuse me, Chris? Can I talk to you for a second?"
"Of course, sir!"
"Ah, God. What did we tell you? When someone is nice to you, you throw some cut eye and say something to make that person feel the way their mom used to when they came home drunk at sixteen. That's how it's done! And did I just hear you tell those people that you let through to 'Have a nice day'?"
"Yes, sir. They were very nice. They are going home and I just thought tho..."
"You're being nice to these people? What the hell is wrong with you!? Look at Steve over there. He's practically jumping out of his booth and punching people in the face! You're holding their hands! That's it. Last week you looked someone in the eye and said 'Hello' and today you wish someone a 'nice day'? You're warned, bud. One more nice thing gets said to these criminals coming through here and you'll be cleaning bathrooms at truck stops."
What do these people do when they are not at work? I'd love to follow one of them around for a day that they're off. I assume that they kick kids, burn cotton candy and pop balloons all day.
"Ah, day off. I guess I indulge in one of my many hobbies. Heading down to the playground to pour water on the sand and turn it into mud. Maybe today, a kid will start to sink in it. One can only hope. God, one can only hope!"
Or they are just ushered back to the cave where they were taken from for the job.
"All right, shift's over. Put your cloak back on, pick up your lantern, and head back down to Middle-earth."
"But, sir, I was hoping that tonight maybe I could go down to the river and grab trout out of the water for myself and my family."
"You know damn well that Friday is 'Fish for your Family' day. It's Monday, Cre-ork. Back to the cave!"
"But, sir! The underworld is a dark and cruel place and I ca..."
"What did I say?! Your ghoulish problems are your ghoulish problems! 'Fish for your Family' day is Friday!"
When driving through, people are not nice. Flying through? Much of the same. But when flying, how many times does your boarding pass have to get scanned? Are all of these necessary? The last time I went through – seven times. Seven! Where do all of these scans go?
"All right, we've got a reading here. This man just went five steps from his last location. Shall I scan him again?"
"Of course! Six steps allows them to plot terrible things. Scan it now before it's too late!"
Why would they do it this much? It's not a movie ticket stub. We know that we can't just throw it out and still get on the plane.
"Where's your boarding pass?"
"Oh, I threw it out. I was just here, though. I am just running to the bathroom on the other side of security."
"Sir, you can't get in this section without a boarding pass."
"Ah come on, man! I threw it out! I didn't want to hold a boarding pass, my passport, my bag, and this copy of last month's Esquire magazine that your beautiful bookstores refuse to throw out but will not sell for a cheaper price. I mean, I don't have three hands!"
If I've gotten to you, sixth guy who stands and scans my boarding pass, do you not think I have a boarding pass? How would I get this far without one! Just making up stories the whole way?
"Sir, where's your boarding pass?"
"Ah, God. Do I have to do this again? I just made up five different stories to five different people about why I don't have one. Do you really need me to lie to you as well?"
"Yes. I'm the sixth guy. You don't think the sixth guy deserves a story?"
"Man, a sixth story! Okay. Ummm, let's see. I put my boarding pass down on the wing of a plane that I didn't think was going to be taking off for awhile, and low and behold, it took off!"
"Hmm, that's not bad! Did you just come up with that now?"
It seems they do all of these boarding pass checks and angrily ask questions because they want you to be so afraid that you start to believe you may have done something wrong.
"Where am I going? Where was I? Who am I? Where are my papers? Man, did I do something wrong? I just watched a movie where four hundred people were shot by Sylvester Stallone. Wait, was that a movie? Maybe it was me. Oh, man! I think I shot up a village! I'm sorry! I don't even know how I got to Burma! Dear God! I may have also beat Apollo Creed for the title. Help me!"
The border really seems as though they want everyone to be horrified on the way through. The regulations, the cold language, the protocol. Everything is designed to make you afraid that you've done something wrong. If they want everyone to be scared, they should turn the border into a Screamers haunted house.
"Okay, you want to cross? Well, all you have to do is go through this haunted house and answer security questions at the same time. If you get too scared, you can say chicken at any time and we'll let you out, but if you do that, you'll be rectally searched. Cool? Ahh! Man! You should have seen the look on your face. Okay, now head toward the dark room full of chainsaw noises and be prepared to answer the question, 'Are you bringing anything with you?'."
I completely understand that there have to be security checks at the border, but has being angry and rude ever stopped anyone from doing anything bad? Is that a deterrent?
"Well, I have NEVER been talked to this way. I am beyond offended. How can they talk to me like this? I'm a human being, dammit! I am so upset, I'm not even going to put my pipe bomb in the washroom anymore. I'll come back when these people decide to be a LITTLE NICER! Yeah, I'm talking to you. Thanks for making me feel bad."
Is that something that's going to happen? No! People who wouldn't do anything wrong are probably pushed to it by the way they are talked to at the border.
"I can't believe the way I was just talked to. I feel like taking a hostage I'm so mad!"
I figured that as a Canadian, crossing the border into America may be a problem, but going home I thought it would be easy. I thought it would be simple coming back into the country, but now I get asked a question that really bugs me.
"What's the purpose of your trip to Canada?"
"The purpose of my trip? I believe what you were trying to say is, 'Welcome back'?"
What do you mean what's the purpose of my trip? I'm from here! I can get an apartment right here at the border if I want. I can walk right into that hospital and say, "Yo, I'm one of yours! Do I have cancer? Sweet, thanks for checking! Peace!"