Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seriously, What the Hell is Going On?

I mentioned late in the summer that I had an unusual experience with US Customs while leaving the United States to enter Canada for a short vacation in Toronto. I was photographed and fingerprinted.

I went to Toronto for the weekend in the summer. Airplane travel is a hassle both security process-wise and getting to and from the airport. Train travel which used to be my main method of going to Canada, requires me to drive to and from Windsor and park there. That's kind of a hassle.

I've mentioned my experiences being scrutinized by Customs coming back over the years. It's always seemed odd at a humorous level.

This year I tried going by bus. It is actually pretty convenient for me since I go from downtown Ann Arbor to downtown Toronto, and I can go on foot for the whole process (other than the bus). And with bus wifi, that part isn't too bad.

Granted, you get a wider cross-section of our society this way than with plane or even train travel. Some passengers are downright weird, while others are just students and others simply ordinary-looking folks. And the Amish, for some reason. I know I'm not student-age nor do I look Amish, but I assumed I at least wasn't in the weirdo category. Am I wrong about that?

Because on my last trip into Canada this summer, before leaving Detroit for Canada, US Customs examined my passport and, finding that apparently insufficient, requested my driver license.

Hey, kudos to the Michigan Secretary of State for having such a trusted identification document to verify my friggin' passport.

Then, when those means of identification were insufficient, Customs photographed me and fingerprinted me "for identification purposes," the agent told me.

My bag was searched, naturally. While leaving the United States, I'll note again.

And they inquired where else abroad I'd traveled.

One, wouldn't there be records of that based on my passport?

And two, what the Hell? Do I look like I've recently spent time in Waziristan?

I've been meaning to look into that. So today I googled the notion. As near as I can tell--and I went ten pages into the search, which is 9 more than most people look at in searches--Customs is photographing and fingerprinting non-American citizens entering the U. S.

I've found references to doing the same to non-American citizens leaving America, but nothing about photographing and fingerprinting American citizens.

And this is the first time I've seen this routine on anyone despite crossing the border at Detroit many times over the years. But perhaps I just didn't notice.

Also, I am an American citizen.

So what's the deal? Sure, I look bad ass and dangerous. That's a given. Hah!

The Army can be proud for the lingering effects decades later of turning me into a lean, mean, signaling machine, eh? That would explain the agent cowering in the corner being comforted by equally scared-looking agents after I entered the building, I suppose. But I'm a peaceful man, really.

So what's with the scrutiny? When leaving?

The Canadians sure don't have an issue with me arriving there. I breeze through their border controls. They didn't even blink when I entered with a mostly empty backpack as my only luggage (I had a suitcase with my clothing already in Canada where I was going that day).

What the Hell is going on?