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[PUBLIC] We're Not Going To Guam, Are We? - The Cover Story
October 2013
Wed, Feb. 10th, 2010 11:32 pm
[PUBLIC] We're Not Going To Guam, Are We?

So this week I went to Canada. Canada now occupies the #2 slot on "Worst Places To Travel" right between Mexico City and New Jersey.

I was identified at Passport control as something that made the agent put all kind of red marks on my declaration and sent me over to Immigration. I explained to the fellow at immigration I was a consulting coming in to do some work for a client and I would be flying out the next day. The man spent the next 10 minutes trying to get me to admit I was a software salesman, presumably to levy some manner of tariff on me. I explained I was working on systems that already existed, but he was unsatisfied, apparently unable to comprehend why skilled labor might be brought in to do work without bringing specialized tools.

When he finally gave up on that venue of attack, he started asking me where my "Letter of Introduction" was. I looked at him like he was an idiot, and he looked right back at me like this was a perfectly reasonable question. Now Canada is the tenth country I've been interviewed to enter, and I have never in all my travels been asked for a "Letter of Introduction" to pass a security checkpoint. I made this relatively clear to your man, and he said that all visitors must have some paperwork justifying their reason for visiting Canada. Of course, the only paperwork I carry on me is receipts for my T&E's, so I explained that as well. No, I didn't have a Letter of Introduction proclaiming my intention to enter the Dominion of Canada. No, I didn't have a copy of our multi-million-dollar book-length contract with a strategic client. I left it in my other pants.

Of course, all through this process, as venomous as my inner monologue went, I was very much in professional, courteous, please-don't-chew-up-any-more-of-my-time-or-if-you-do-at-least-deport-me-now mode. Finally, he asks for the contact information of who I'm meeting with in Canada. I give him the name of our team lead who was already on-site. He takes the name and number and disappears for a good 20 minutes. I later was to discover that he wanted to make me buy a $300 work visa, but our man was able to talk him out of it.

Finally, nearly an hour after getting to the desk, he lets me go on my way. When I got to the site, I discovered that every single member of our team had been shaken down in the same way. One fellow was forced to buy 2 work visas because his first one only stamped for 2 weeks and apparently the Canadian Border Authorities couldn't confirm that the mistake was on their side, despite him having a receipt. If these guys were privately owned, they'd up there with Verizon and Comcast in terms of dirty tricks done to get money.

On the way back out, I discovered that at least in Toronto, you enter the United States in the Canadian airport, instead of going through customs when you land. Without exception, every person I interacted with (save the Continental check-in desk girl) was abrasive, angry, and rude. I was stunned. There was never any effort to explain what was supposed to be done, or proper signage, there was merely angry shouts and glares when you didn't meet their bizarre expectations. The worst offender was this little old lady at the entrance to the border crossing, who wanted you to have 3 things: a boarding pass, a carry-on tag, and customs declaration that had been filled out. It took me three tries to get past her, because there was no explanation, only cursing out passengers who weren't in compliance. I eventually worked out what I needed to do by asking passers-by. Suffice it to say, it was the first time I've actually weighted the benefits of inflicting physical harm upon a government official.

I was never so happy to arrive back in Manhattan's warm embrace. I took the train into Penn Station from EWR. Lining the sides of the halls when I stepped off the train were hundreds of people fleeing the city. I emerged onto 7th just as the first flakes were tentatively reaching the street level. I've grown comfortable with the city, or at least, the section of Midtown in which all of my work seems to happen. I recognize and remember the sites now, and I have an instinctive sense of which way is North. Eight blocks up, two over, and I was at my hotel. Neat and tidy, never a wasted moment. Out to grab a pizza because I'm tired and want to sleep. Pizza, Sprite, Crest, Bed.

Today I worked all day, but I was introduced to a fantastic Mongolian Grill on 39th, right next to the Courtyard Marriott. Its just across the street from the Schnitzel Express I ate at last time I was in New York. I think I'll stop there on my way to LGA again tomorrow.

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Current Location: New York, New York


Galactica Actual
Thu, Feb. 11th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)

That's insane. We had a sales meeting last week with all our international reps. I was actually wondering just a couple hours ago what rigmarole they have to go through to get to these meetings in the US.

Thu, Feb. 11th, 2010 08:41 am (UTC)


That gorgeous vixen
Thu, Feb. 11th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)

I remember the Letter of Introduction thing. I've gotten stung by it in Ottawa before.

The rest of your saga is totally over-the-top bullshit. Way to go, Canadian customs.

Andrew Zorowitz
Thu, Feb. 11th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)

So, uh, which is worse - Mexico City or New Jersey?

I kind of feel like the answer should be New Jersey....

E. Z.
Thu, Feb. 11th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)

Wow, that's weird. I've never flown into Canada, only driven in. But the first couple of times I drove (well, rode in) I was on my U.S. green card and my Polish passport. The Canadians didn't much care. It's the Americans that were suspicious.

Of course they're still suspicious. I must be very least trying to smuggle something in. I hope they're like that to everyone... :) (No cavity searches yet.)

Thu, Feb. 11th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)

Huh. I always thought Canada was supposed to be nice and easy-going and accepting and pleasant. Or maybe that's just liberal idealization.

Tue, Feb. 23rd, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)

I'm sure the Olympics had something to do with the higher asshole level of getting into Canada.