Monday, October 13, 2008

Travel Nightmares 1

So, for reasons I really don't want to articulate right here and right now, I'm stuck in Hong Kong.

It is the most frustrating situation...
I can't get to where I'm going and I can't go home.
In theory, I will be freed from my fetters on Monday and I can get on with the project at hand, namely, the NBA's China Games 2008.
Game one in Guangzhou and game two in Beijing...

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Let's talk about the last couple weeks and the trials and tribulations of travel.

Where shall we start? Buffalo?
That's as good a place as any.

There's things that needed doing in Buffalo for the NHL, and it was me who needed to do them, so I arranged a little trip to Buffalo NY to put the fix on some equipment in the HSBC Arena.
While I was in the neighborhood, we (JR, DanO and I) thought it might behoove us to have a peek at the arena in Montreal since that is where we will be spending the latter part of January 2009 with the NHL's All Star Game. Their first pre-season game was that Friday and it neatly dovetailed with the Buffalo trip.
I'd do my thing in Buffalo, drive to Montreal and make some notes on the arena and figure out how to get the services to the trucks during the Big Event, maybe have a nosh with Luc, see the game...
On Saturday I'd drive back down to Burlington Vt, drop my rental car (can't leave it in Canada) and catch a flight home.

Yeah- No.

Things started to go south on Thursday morning. I had driven to Watertown NY, spent the night there and headed for Montreal bright and early.
I hit the US-Canada border at Hill Island on the Thousand Islands Parkway about 7:30am...
I guess they were either bored or I hit some kind of profile match.
The guy in the booth told me to pull over to the parking are and take my passport inside.
No problem. I parked my rental car and went inside where The Ordeal began.

Customs and Immigration Girl: "Why are you coming to Canada?"
Yours Truly: "Going to go to a hockey game tomorrow night, visit some friends in Montreal."
She took my passport and asked if they could search my car. I told her no problem...
(If you refuse, it's called "reasonable suspicion" and it is a ticket to a cavity search and other fun experiences.)

The real C&I girl thinks she on the new CBC show "The Border".

If she even remotely looked like Sofia Milos I wouldn't have minded it so much.

I took a seat and got comfortable...
I looked out the window a few minutes later and got a surprise...
I had expected the run-of-the-mill open the doors, open the trunk, Bobs-your-uncle search of the car...
Lord knows I've seen enough of them between Athens, Torino and Beijing, but this was amazing.
My bags were out of the car and spread open, as was my tool kit. The lining of the trunk was out on the ground, as was the spare tire.
All four doors, the trunk and the hood were open and they had two dogs working overtime sniffing every nook, cranny and crease of the car.

I stopped looking... I knew they weren't going to find anything.

30 or 40 minutes went by...
The customs girl came back in...carrying my laptop.
Uh oh. Not good.

Not that there was anything on it that I was worried about, but I was concerned with it getting stripped, dropped or otherwise corrupted...

Even then, I wasn't too worried- I have almost everything backed up on an external drive except for the last few weeks pictures from my camera and I hadn't backed up my Outlook files in a week or two.

Customs girl called me over...
CIG: "I need your password for your laptop."
YT: "Sure. No problem. But I'm going to need you to write up a statement of responsibility that if you boot up my machine and anything happens to my data..."
She interrupted me...
CIG: "No...I don't. You consented to the search of your car; It was in your car. Give me the password."
Canadian Customs is becoming the semantical equivalent of the National Socialist Party.
I gave her the password, and she disappeared into a back room.
Another 45 minutes passed by. I sneaked a look... The car was mostly put back together.
I continued waiting.
Customs girl calls me over.
Read this:
It was a statement informing me that if I give false information to the customs officer the possible outcome would be refusal of entry, detainment, or possible criminal charges.
Did I understand the statement.
Huh? What the hell did they find?
YT: "Yes, I understand. What's wrong?"

CIG: "Why are you coming to Canada?"
She fixed me with a "you better not lie to me you smoking pile of shit" glare.

Wheels are turning...
What the hell...?
Hockey game- visit friends.
CIG:"Where do you know friends from?"
YT: "Job, they work for NHL."
CIG: "We don't believe you... We think you are coming to work in Canada."

(Big deal, what if I am? Isn't that what NAFTA's all about?
Oh- That's right...That's only for Mexicans and Canadians coming to the US and working, not the other way around.)

My supposition is that they saw my toolkit, and they were looking at some old (2006!) documents regarding the HITS installation (saw on the recent open docs history on the laptop later...) they decided to try some scare tactics.

"Look- I come here to work occasionally, and when I do, we do all the paperwork. I did when I came to install the original equipment. Our customer here is the NHL- Maybe you've heard of them? They are relatively high profile, and we wouldn't do anything to jeopardize their business or our professional relationship..."
She said she saw the sense of the argument... here's your stuff, you can go.

Later I did some research and found out that both US and Canadian Border agents are doing some funny things regarding laptop searches...
Basically, they are both doing basic searches, and in some cases making complete copies of laptop hard disks... Like that idea?

Can US Customs search and seize your laptop?
Read this.

If your hard drive could testify.
And this...

From now on, I'm removing my hard disk from my laptop when I cross the border.
It's going to be tucked away, safe from harm...
I might just invest in a decoy drive to travel with. We'll see...

Don't get me started on the mindset of the folks that work at customs and immigrations, and by extension the nice people at DHS.
I guess you have to treat everyone like they are a threat...otherwise you're not doing your job.
I understand that, but you have to understand my reaction then...
You push me, I'm gonna push you back.
Human nature.

So... two hours, shot to hell.
Thanks, Canada.

On to Montreal.

Nothing of interest to write about in Canada, except a lovely lunch with Luc at the Red Stick... Thanks, Bro.
Part II forthcoming.

TBG - out

No comments: