To the editor:
Last month I left Kelowna on a camping trip. I planned driving through the USA, down to Texas, over to Florida, up the East Coast ending in Toronto. Just prior to leaving Kelowna a friend stopped by to ask if I would deliver a small decorated bag to his daughter in Texas. It was like the decorated bag you would buy in the liquor store. Looking at it quickly I could see two sealed cards, a silver purse and something covered in gift wrapping and her name and phone numbers. I said I can’t promise as who knows about all the crazy weather the US was having.
Arriving at the customs at 8:30, I was detained until 11. I was under suspicion.
I answered all the familiar questions: Any firearms? How much money are you taking into the States? Are you stopping off anywhere? How long will you be staying?, etc.
He searched my trunk for 10 minutes. It was chock-full of camping equipment and everything one would need to be comfortable. When he came back he was carrying a folded piece of paper which I had thought I had thrown away. It was a list of cities I found on the large scale map of the States that I would be going through (instead of marking highways, I had marked cities), but it stopped at Florida. He would have opened my writing tablet to find this note.
Was I planning to stay in Florida? He no doubt didn’t believe me and sent me over to this garage with open doors. Once inside, the doors closed, two burly apes wearing black, carrying taser guns approached.
“Step outside sir, leave everything except your wallet.” I was told to spread my legs and lean across my car while I was bodily searched.
I was then told to walk towards a door, through another door until I came to the office where another man interrogated me over and over again. They were polite but I knew at anytime if I made a false move I would know it. I had $3,000 in cash, I had to remove my jacket, step back while he looked me over. Then he handed me a form to fill in all States I had intended to visit, the two apes in black were tossing my car. He went on his computer and asked questions while I filled in his form.
One ape in black came bouncing in the office like he’d found gold, carrying the small bag my friend gave me and smiling like a Cheshire cat. He looked ridiculous, the size of him with this small insignificant bag held up by his pinky looking at me with a cruel smile. Gotcha!
The daughter’s two phone numbers they knew were Texas numbers. The numbers on a card were of her home and the school where she taught, if she wasn’t home.
“Please explain this?” I was asked with dark smoldering eyes. My explanation was short as I really didn’t know anything about this girl or the town she lived in. When asked, after answering many stupid questions I didn’t know, was her husband a terrorist? I broke up laughing. What a bunch of nonsense? I was 100 per cent innocent and had just about enough of his crap and dumb accusing questions. After a few seconds he laughed too. I said, “You guys are so paranoid!”
My laughter had broken the tension, he knew I was no threat and was told after spending more time on his computer I was who I said I was and I could go. I asked, “Why was I under suspicion?”
1. Why the list of cities? Why did it stop at Florida? What was I planning to do in these cities?
2. Why would a 72 year old man with money, new car, dressed nicely want to sleep on the hard ground in a tent?
3. I couldn’t tell them exactly how many days I would be in their country.
4. They were surprised I could name and spell correctly all the States I would be driving through, I think there was 12 States.
Driving away in bewilderment I thought good God, what must it be like for a Canadian crossing into the States if they were dark in colour or, heaven forbid, wear a beard with a turban? It boggles the mind!
Coming into Canada at Buffalo, NY, I was asked two questions, the trunk was not searched and I was on my way in 15 seconds.
Wayne Harris, Kelowna