Canada. Oh, how I want to love you! I was in Toronto last week at Humber College, uncrapifying the crap out of them for their 25th annual all-staff professional development week. And seriously, Canada, you’ve conducted the world’s most effective PR campaign ever. You’re the second-largest country on the planet, and absolutely nobody hates you. I know I’m not alone when I say that nobody on this Earth has ever heard anyone say, “I can’t wait to teach those smug, condescending, jerky Canadians a lesson.” You have a responsible banking system, a relatively smooth governmental apparatus, a low crime rate, and gorgeous natural wonders. The people I worked for were delightful, and Toronto is a world-class city. What’s not to love?
Their customs department, it turns out. I had a hilariously bad time getting through customs on my way back to the United States – and in honor of the things I witnessed during that hour of my life, I give you several ways for you to demoralize your friends, colleagues, employees, and random strangers.
Create Rules So Arbitrary That Even You Don’t Know How to Explain Them! Halfway through the customs line, I received a phone call, and so I answered my phone. Which naturally means that I am a national security threat. Very shortly after that a pair of angry customs officials demanded that I get off the phone. There had been no signs posted anywhere to say that phone calls were prohibited, but I have a policy of not arguing with people who can throw me into prison. When I got to my customs official, I asked why phone calls were disallowed. “Oh, there are security reasons,” I was told. “Lots of security reasons.” When I asked what those security reasons were, I was told that she would be happy to contact her supervisor if I wished so I could have those security reasons explained to me, which is exactly the point at which I gave up. I think the real problem is that my phone is exceptionally shiny, and we all know that Canadians are wary of exceptionally shiny things.
Ignore Desperate Pleas for Help! As often happens in customs lines, there was one person who was late for his plane and afraid that he would miss his flight. So he tried approaching one of the customs agents to see about moving ahead in the line, where he was told quite firmly that he would have to return to the back of the line. I watched the exchange, and I’m pretty sure the customs agent didn’t bother him in the eye the entire time. And I applaud her callous disregard for his predicament! Unfortunately, our line was plagued by an army of good Samaritans, and so he eventually worked his way to the front of the line by apologizing 45 times to 45 different people who were perfectly happy to let him pass. Maybe next time our customs lady will learn when to use her taser.
Create Absurdly Unnecessary Redundancies! I can’t really blame the Canadian customs people for this one, since all customs offices do it, but I had no fewer than four different people, at four different stations, check my documents. I’m pretty sure that there were no doors or alternate hallways in between any of those checkpoints, and so I’m pretty sure there’s absolutely no way I could have gotten past the first checkpoint undetected, much less the second or third. It’s kind of like that person at Sam’s Club who checks your receipt after the other person gave you your receipt. All they need to do there is add someone else in the parking lot to check it for you too, and then someone to drive home with you and make sure you didn’t sneak something into your coat pockets.
So thank you, Canada! I’d always thought you were perfect, but it’s good to know that you’re just pretty OK.