I swear I started this blog because I wanted to write about my own baggage, but the junk in someone else’s trunk has distracted me. Literally.
In this story on the Huffington Post, Canadian citizen Clay Nikiforuk decribes repeated harassment by U.S. border crossing officials. Why? Because condoms.
Inflamed, he raised his voice at me that it was his business and that adultery was a crime in America — a crime that he could deny me entry for. He made me tell him my partner’s name and date of birth and threatened to detain him, too. I pointed out that we would be in Miami for a total of 40 minutes to catch our next flight to Aruba; hardly enough time to run to our gate, let alone commit adultery. The next thing I knew he was searching my bags, pulling out condoms and waving them in my face.
“I could have you charged with being a working girl! The proof is right here!”
It happened to her not once, not twice but three times in two weeks. She was called a prostitute, threatened with arrest, told she’d be banned from the country, asked about her sex life … and threatened with rape.
“Are you looking to be sexually assaulted?”
I blinked at him. I couldn’t breathe.
“Was that meant to be funny?”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“Ah, no. I’m definitely not.”
“Well, it sure seems like you are.”
He wouldn’t elaborate.
Inexcusable. Wrong on every possible level. I am angry.
I live in a border state, and I’ve made more border crossings between the U.S. and Canada than I know how to count. I’ve been turned back (actually, someone in my group was turned back, but it was an ‘all of us or none of us’ kind of deal). I’ve been pleasantly interrogated and not so pleasantly. I’ve had border guards try to chat me up about where I live and what I do for a living and do I like it when I was in pain with a raging inner ear infection and only wanted to get to a hospital. I, too, have had border guards question my relationship to a travel companion — but nowhere near as intensely as this woman was.
I never smile or laugh when I approach a border crossing. Evangeline doesn’t understand and takes it light-heartedly. I don’t. Because those people in their little booths have the power to ruin your day.
I was questioned by Canadian immigration at the Montreal airport. The reason I was suspect? Because I wanted to take a trip to Newfoundland for vacation. The man was incredulous. “Why would you go there?” I had no good answer. “It looks interesting on a map.” On and on the questions went, until my answers sounded like an ode to icebergs, whales and puffins. I guess he finally got bored. The trip was fantastic.
You never know, though. When I was married, my husband and I were traveling home from Canada on Labor Day weekend, and the border crossing line stretched on for hours. The guards were searching everyone’s trunk and looking in the back seat. When we finally got there, the guard looked in our car and saw we had our little dog with us.
“What kind of dog is that?”
“She’s a schipperke.”
The guard — an immigrant from Romania with a thick accent — beamed. “Oh! A schipperke? I love schipperkes!” He waved his hand. “Go on through.”
They are totally arbitrary.
Another time I was flying to Canada the very same week they started doing x-rays of luggage at the check-in points. My suitcase was flagged for inspection and the woman agent treated the case like it were a bomb about to go off. She poked through things, then I saw her laugh a little and zip it up. I didn’t know why, I didn’t ask. I was just glad it was cleared.
Later that night, unpacking in Nova Scotia, I found out why. Inside a tucked-away pocket of my suitcase was a cock-and-balls dildo. On an x-ray, it must have looked vaguely like a gun. They thought I was packing heat, when actually, I was just packing.
Not wanting to repeat the incident, I gave the dong a lovely burial in Dildo, Newfoundland. God rest ye.
But like I said. Totally arbitrary, and that’s at best. Add rampant misogyny into the mix, and they can really make a mess.
Now imagine what would have happened if the woman who wrote the article was a man instead. Any chance he’d be detained, interrogated, marked as a prostitute and threatened with arrest?
Nah, I don’t think so, either.