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August 12, 2008


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perhaps they do other things with mattresses in Canada

Wouldn't you like to know.

The last time I crossed that border was after the Boston worldcon in 2004. On Labor Day. By the time I finally made it to the booth, I was asked the usual questions by a very prissy Canadian official who, when I answered that I was born in Canada but that my citizenship was American, equally prissily explained that, if I so desired, I could ask for my Canadian citizenship back. I felt it better not to tell him that it was none of his business, that I had chosen against a dual citizenship, but I was bored and just wanted to get going.

On my way back, one week later, I dreaded having the American official decide that I was a member of the Front de Liberation du Qu├ębec. "You're an American, but you speak funny? Do you think I'm stupid?" Luckily, all I got was a stone-faced official who let me thru fairly easily.

When I go to Montreal's worldcon, I'll probably be flying in, but I expect that airport's customs will be a very pleasant experience. Not.

Bush has a lot to answer for.

By the way, may we ask what was in the wheel well besides the wheel?

re. mattresses:
Yeah, I would like to know!

Why were you driving to Canada after the Boston worldcon?

There was nothing exciting in the wheel well. Not even a wheel, ahem. Just a few random car tools and an air compressor to reinflate a low tire. The latter is not useful in the case where one's tire has been gashed open by an unknown object on a highway.

Why did I drive to Canada after the worldcon? It had been 9 years since my aging mom had seen her eldest child and she was quite unsubtle about it. It was also a chance to see a few friends. Mostly that in fact because I was never very close to my genetic relatives.

I wonder what would have happened if you had hidden wood inside your mattress.

They would have missed it on the search they conducted. But it would have involved damaging my mattress, which I was not interested in doing.

Ah yes, that extensive and thorough search worthy of Shakespearean Security Theatre...

Wow. Who knew you couldn't take firewood over the borders? You know, I bet that has to do with NAFTA and Canada's softwood. And why else would you take a mattress with a tent? The last time I went to Canada was probably more than 10 years ago and on the way in, they asked me if I was bringing any non-personal items and I said "Gifts! Would you like to see them?" (I'd purposely not wrapped them yet) and she said no. On the way back, he asked if I was bringing anything in to the country and I said "Books!" and he passed me on.

You should ask Jim about roads that go over borders with no guards.

The impression I got was that the firewood rule had to do with foreign insects.

The problem for me is that to travel to Stratford in any rational way, it all comes down to one of three border crossings (Lewiston, Niagara, or Fort Erie). The Great Lakes make any other crossing point impractical. If I just wanted to go to a random location in Canada, it would be easier. I did once drive home over the lakes via the Thousand Islands region, which was lots of fun and very scenic but took a lot of extra time.

The firewood issue definitely would have been due to potential insect infestation and/or disease.

I think you got unlucky. Lewiston is the border crossing my husband and I almost always use (generally separately, when we're going to visit the other), and problems either way are rare. He has crossed with weirder items than a mattress without any issues.

Still, Carol, if they are truly that concerned about insects sneaking into Canada, why don't they have a mechanism in place to dispose of that evil wood in an efficient manner? Yes, I am a computer programmer, and I know how silly my question is.

And foreign insects are just like ours. What makes either country think they contain insects and disease at the border? There's miles and miles of joined forests over the border.

I didn't address the lack-of-sane-disposal-options part because I don't understand it either. Security theatre isn't just about humans!

Carol... I have this co-worker who is a Republican and we rarely talk politics. Last time we did, she started griping about California's former governor, Gray Davis, and I gently suggested that maybe we should stay away from the subject. But, not long ago, we talked about the Security Theater at airports and she agreed with me that this was all BS, just something being done to show to the public that Something Is Being Done. It probably was a safe political topic because this affects her as much as it does everybody else.

Serge: *nod*. Security theatre affects the guards too. My husband has discussed it at the Canadian border (he wouldn't try to at the US border). He said they smiled, shrugged and sounded sheepish about having to go through with it.

I'm sure there are some US border guards who agree about the security theatre, just as there are some Canadian guards who act like jerks and bullies.

Carol... Indeed. Bullies and decent people aren't limited to this or that side of a border. My own experience with the Security Theater has mostly involved airports, and the people in charge haven't behaved like jerks, not while I was around anyway. Last time I flew, one Middle-Eastern ahead of me was wearing a traditional scarf, and the security people had one female member pat the woman's hair, but the security woman was gentle about it. Still, the whole thing is stupid. If you wear a scarf, they have to check you out, but do they do so if your uncovered hair looks like something from Hairspray? Of course, you can't ask them because you yourself might become an object of suspicion, especially if they saw the original version of Hairspray.

The sad thing is that until this trip I would have testified vehemently that there were always much nicer people and attitudes on the Canadian side of the border. I've crossed regularly for nearly twenty years, and while I've occasionally had my car searched, I've never had an experience like this before. I usually cross at Niagara (for the view of the falls), but I've used Lewiston before and never had any problems. And I've brought things like an entire Pennsic wardrobe across! Once in Vancouver I crossed with 15-foot mechanical wings! (I'm convinced I got searched that time because the guards wanted to know about the wings. I think I recruited my searcher for the 1991 Westercon.)

Do you and your husband live on opposite sides of the border or am I misreading your posts?

The lack of sane disposal options for confiscated materials still ticks me off. What would have happened if I'd been carrying produce, I wonder? Not that I'm willing to make the experiment!

Once in Vancouver I crossed with 15-foot mechanical wings!

That's a rather steampunky way of flying to Canada.

My husband became a Permanent Resident of Canada this year, but almost all of his clients and connections are in the US, and only so much of his work can be done from home. He also has a house down there that he's trying to renovate on his own in between working and seeing me.

The fifth anniversary of our first date was in August, and we have been married for just over 4.5 years. The distance has been tough, but we think we're worth the effort. At least we're within a day's drive of each other.

One of the people I drove to Kalamazoo with had an orange in the lunch she packed (she had never been to the US before). The guard tossed it in the garbage can outside his booth and we moved on. It may have caused a different reaction had she brought more.

(still confused) Carol, you live in Canada?

I don't have any problem with them stopping me on the firewood. But I do resent their inability or unwillingness to distinguish between an honest mistake and an attempt to seriously smuggle. It would take stupidity beyond belief to attempt to smuggle by putting the contraband in clear view (from outside the vehicle!) in the back of station wagon. While they were busy harassing me, any number of real smugglers (terrorists, etc.) could have been cruising on by, firewood-free.

Gah, I was so annoyed!

I can see the woodchuck being stopped at the border then, after being asked if he can chuck wood, is x-rayed in case he did chuck wood.

Wow. This is giving me SERIOUS second thoughts about going to WorldCon in Montreal next summer.

1) don't cross at Lewiston
2) don't bring firewood

Honestly, in almost twenty years of regular crossings, I've never had an experience like this before.

Plus, I'll be in Montreal, so all the fun people should come and we can have a dinner party or something!

OK. That sounds good. I spoke to you at Denvention on the street, but I don't think you recognized me. See you at Darkover.

Errgh. I apologize profusely. I am fairly good at faces and extraordinarily bad at attaching names to them. So while your face is known to me, my being able to successfully put a name to it at any given moment is a gamble, even with you standing right in front of me. This has nothing to do with your memorability and everything to do with me having a mind like a sieve, especially when (as at worldcon) I am in a world of stress and more scatterbrained than usual. I have to apologize for this a lot, sometimes under even more embarrassing circumstances.

On the bright side, calling me on it here is a good way to make sure I study up before Darkover, and I actually do better with names when I have them printed (paper or screen) in front of me, since it gives me a visual memory to refer to. I do much better with visual input than with sounds, unless the sounds are set to music or attached to intense emotions (but not so intense I get distracted). So oddly enough, seeing your name in dark blue slanted boldface on my screen will do more for my ability to remember it than a couple dozen personal encounters.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Hey, maybe we should have a small Rixo get-together at Darkovercon. Maybe Marilee wants to make a small road trip?

Hmmm, that's far enough to drive that I'd need to stay overnight, and I can't afford that right now. Sounds like fun, though!

Actually, there's currently an insect problem with firewood, and you violated the quarantine just by bringing wood from Connecticut to New York. I think possibly the law as well, though by turning it in to the US border guards, you did the right thing as far as safe disposal is concerned.

Not that this explains, condones, or excuses the idiocy you encountered.

My own worst border crossing involved borrowing a friend's car so I could go antique shopping, and having trouble finding the registration at the border. I was brought in on suspicion of Grand Theft. I still had a better time than you (but then, I was crossing at Niagara, where they are used to tourists, and before the border change). Next worst was when I admitted that I was performing in a show when asked why I had all those odd clothes in the back of my car.

Best was when I was driving my friend Trish back to her home in Toronto, and she had had her passport stolen the day before (along with ALL ID) and cheekily told the guard "I'm going to say "about" and you'll let me through." -- He agreed that she must have been born and raised in Toronto and waved us through.

I was searched once while carrying 15-foot mechanical costume wings at a crossing near Vancouver. That was fun. I think I convinced the guard to come to the con for the weekend.

Prior to the recent changes, I'd crossed the border regularly with no more than a decade-out-of-date expired college ID several times. I wouldn't try that now. I've also crossed with firewood in both directions in the past; the guards said it was a new law.

Say, Susan, planning to bring anything wooden to Montreal in August?

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