suspicious minds

On Saturday, Heather Renee and I piled into the Mini and drove south to America. It was a routine trip, with a routine agenda: lunch at Mi Mexico, Target for incidentals and underwear with superheroes on them, and Trader Joe’s for kitchen essentials. We’ve made the trip a thousand times before without incident, and we assumed the day would hold more of the same.

We assumed wrong.

Thing started off badly when we had the misfortune to get the World’s Angriest Man for a crossing guard. He bombarded us with very specific questions: have you ever been arrested? have you ever been in handcuffs? (I really, really wanted to answer that truthfully, but WAM was in no mood for sex play) what do you do? who do you do it to? where do you work? what position does your desk face? when was the last time you ate thousand island salad dressing? He was especially curious about where Renee and Heather worked; being unsatisfied with their answers of what they did for a living. The questions went on and on, until, for the first time EVER, we were “randomly selected” for additional screening.

Angry Man angrily gave us a piece of orange paper, and told us to pull over to the right. We did, where additional Angry Men told us to get out of the car and go inside for cavity searches. I was ordered to leave my car keys on the windshield, and we all had to LEAVE OUR PHONES IN THE CAR. This was the first thing that made me angry – denying me access to Social Media if things went wrong. Not cool, but as they had guns and I did not, I angrily left my phone in the car and stomped off to the Interrogation Centre.

Inside was slightly chaotic, and full of people. Since I had time to kill, I looked very carefully at my surroundings and the people selected for secondary screening with us. With the exception of the people with the guns, Renee and Heather were two of maybe 4 white people in the room: most of the detainees were Hispanic, Asian, or African. HMMMMMM. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I’ve been pulled aside for “random screening” after having the audacity to be the only non-white person in the room before, so I’m a little sensitive to being singled out. Heather and Renee were appropriately apprehensive about all this, but I was PISSED OFF. Why had we been selected for screening? What were they doing to my car? Are they planning on finger printing us, like they were doing to everyone else? I was MAD, and getting madder by the second. I had squinty face all over, and an ongoing internal dialogue about my options: if they try to finger print me, do I refuse? CAN I refuse? Is standing up for my rights worth my being barred from the US forever? All this and more ran through my head as family after family of non-white people streamed in through the doors. SO MAD, but stuck in line so I fumed and they worried and eventually, we were called up to the counter to speak with Beardy McBorder Guard.

He asked us an abbreviated series of the questions Angry Man had barked at us, emphatically typing on his keyboard the entire time. I volunteered no more than the absolute minimum, and again he was not really interested in where I worked: he asked us all what we did, but only Heather and Renee *where* they did it. Odd, because both of them have far more respectable jobs than I do – they work for Public Service and Educational Institution respectively, whereas I am a trouble-making software brat. Beardy McBorder Guard continued to pound on his keyboard (undoubtedly waxing poetry about our evil Canadian ways), but most of  his attention was reserved for the two female border guards sitting beside him: apparently someone had puked in their Interrogation Line earlier, and THEY weren’t going to clean it up so it just sat there. Awesome.

After a while, Beardy stopped typing and stamped our orange paper a bunch of times, then .. let us go. We weren’t finger printed, and our belongings were relatively unmolested. We weren’t ordered to go to our destination and return immediately, like other families were, and we didn’t have to wait around for additional questioning. I suppose we checked out okay – we had nothing to hide and told the truth – but our questions weren’t answered. Why were we pulled over? What were they looking for? In what way were three Canadians in a small car suspicious enough to require searching? It couldn’t have been the car itself; Ed and I had taken it for a ride down the Chuckanut the day after we got it. It had to be us, but WHY?

We discussed it afterward, and we think the WHY can be boiled down to three points:

  • Renee is an International Man of Mystery, and her passport has stamps from such questionable places as Botswana, Vietnam, the Used Kingdom of Cambodia, the UK, and France
  • They realized that I was actually half white and therefore didn’t need the additional probing that FULL Asians require for some reason
  • Heather is entirely too innocent; they couldn’t believe that anyone is truly that good and nice

The rest of our trip was without incident: we ate lunch, went to Target, bought snacks at Trader Joe’s. There was concern that getting back into Canada would be problematic, but our return was also without incident and we were back home by 6pm: tired, but with our rectums and most of our dignity intact.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when I go south next.

they’re listening

9 thoughts on “suspicious minds

  1. Maybe it was the stamp for Malaysia? They’re a MUSLIM COUNTRY, after all. I hear some people in the US have problems with that…

  2. As much as I hate to dissuade a good conspiracy, the main use for that room as far as I can tell is for non-Canadians. Any permanent resident has to go in for secondary screening and pay for a visa.

    My ex (although whiteywhitewhitewhiteface) wasn’t a Canadian, so I’ve gone through that room a few times. I would suspect most of them were pulled out for that.

    As for why you were pulled out? Well, clearly three women traveling alone is a sign of trouble. Why aren’t you in the kitchen? I mean honestly, YOU HAVE SHOES ON. disgraceful.

  3. i got pulled over once and we went through the whole rigamorale. (although my encounter at the border was more pleasant than what you encountered). they also pulled aside lots of families and upstanding looking citizen types.

    when we were free to leave, i asked the woman at my counter what was the reason we were pulled inside and she told me, that it was a completely random check.

    i don’t think you have anything to worry about next time you head south.

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