The following conversation *actually happened* this evening (July 31, 2014) at approximately 10:15pm EST on the U.S. Side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel as I was crossing back into my native country. The entire interrogation lasted about 10 minutes, but it felt like a damned eternity. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it back.
Me: [Handing the nice border guard my passport, already opened to the picture page, all cheerful and dopey] Hello, sir. How are you tonight?
Border Guard: Where are you coming from this evening?
Me: Windsor, Ontario, Canada, sir.
Border Guard: Why were you in Windsor?
Me: Sight seeing.
Border Guard: What did you do while you were there?
Me: Well, I went to the Queen Elizabeth II park and saw fireflies, had dinner and, uh… went to a Tim Horton’s. It was the most Canadian thing I could think of doing.
Border Guard: Did you make any purchases while you were there?
Me: Well, I went to the duty free store at the tunnel opening and bought some maple fudge, a magnet and a tchochke for my son.
Border Guard: [Alert] A what, sir?
Me: A tchochke. [I pull out this weird cube labeled “Windsor” with two polar bears floating on a white sea and hand it to him]
Border Guard: [Inspecting the tchocke] For your son?
Me: He’s five.
Border Guard: Did you purchase any alcohol or tobacco products?
Me: No, absolutely not.
Border Guard: Are you carrying any cash back from Canada?
Me: [Cursing my dumb foreign currency collection] Uh, yes. But not a lot.
Border Guard: More than $1,000?
Me: [Stifling a laugh] No, nowhere near that amount.
Border Guard: [Looking at my passport with additional scrutiny] You’re from California. Are you staying in Michigan?
Me: Yes, in Detroit.
Border Guard: For what purpose?
Border Guard: What do you do for a living?
Me: I’m a technical consultant employed by Intel.
Border Guard: Is this your car?
Me: No, it’s a rental.
Border Guard: Do you have the paperwork?
Me: [Sudden terror setting in] Uh, no… it’s back in my hotel.
Border Guard: [Extra suspicious] And where is your hotel?
Me: It’s the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Detroit. It’s nice, I guess.
Border Guard: And you have no paperwork to indicate you rented this car?
Me: [Stomach sinking] No.
Border Guard: That’s a problem. [Pause] I’m going to need to see a driver’s license and your work ID. Do you have your work ID?
Me: [Suddenly proud of my anal retentiveness in always carrying my Intel ID with me] Yes, I do! But… it’s in the trunk. Should I get out and get it?
Border Guard: No, sir, stay in your car. Please open the trunk and I’ll get it.
Me: [Scrambling to find the bloody damned effing trunk latch which WAS JUST RIGHT THERE BUT IS GONE NOW GAWDAMMITFUCKSHITGOINGTOGUATANAMO] Uh… sure, here’s my license in the mean time.
Border Guard: [Concerned at my hand disappearing below the window line] Having trouble sir? Let me open the door.
Me: [Seeing the latch on the floor RIGHT WHERE I WAS FUCKING REACHING GAWDAMMIT] Ah, there it is, thank you, sir. [Pops trunk] It’s in my bag.
Border Guard: You have a computer bag in the trunk? Like that?
Me: Yes sir.
[Border Guard goes to the back of my car. I idly wonder how much handcuffs chaff as I hear him rustling around for my bag]
Border Guard: [Holding my bag] Where is the ID in this bag?
Me: It’s in that small outer pocket. Would you like me to get it?
Border Guard: No, I’ll find it.
[Border Guard returns to the back of the car as I desperately try to remember what contraband I have in that bag so I can have a convincing story ready]
[Border Guard pauses, shuts trunk, comes back to the booth]
Border Guard: What exactly do you do for Intel? What is your role there?
Me: [Thinking, “Now I have to describe my job to someone who knows nothing about my industry like my life depends on it because MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT“] I’m a strategy consultant. I do strategy consulting on behalf of Intel for our customers. For something called APIs.
Border Guard: [Eyeing me with – is that pity I see?] And where do you work out of?
Me: San Francisco.
Border Guard: And what business did you have in Detroit?
Me: Uh, well, I was here for a conference. It’s called API Craft, it was held at the Port of Detroit. Oh, but I did visit some prospects while I was here, too.
Border Guard: [Suspicious and confused] The Port of Detroit? What’s at the Port of Detroit?
Me: [Realizing that even the native Detroit people had never seen this venue before] Uh, it’s like this cool conference room thing at… uh… the Port. Of Detroit. In… Detroit.
Border Guard: Huh, OK. And who did you visit while you were here?
Me: I had meetings with [Big local company he’s definitely heard of] and a meeting with [Big company located nowhere near here that I forgot I met with over the phone].
Border Guard: Did they hold you at the Canadian border crossing?
Me: No, aside from just asking a couple of basic questions [HINT FUCKING HINT].
Border Guard: Is this your first trip to Canada?
Me: Yes! It was cool. [Dork]
Border Guard: [Looking at my license] Where is Concord?
Me: In the East side of the San Francisco Bay.
Border Guard: What cities is it near?
Me: Uh… it’s East of Berkeley.
Border Guard: [No response]
Me: Uh, do you know where Walnut Creek is?
Border Guard: No.
Me: Pleasant Hill?
Border Guard: No, I’ve never been to California.
Me: Uh, it’s east of Oakland.
Border Guard: [Alert Again] Oakland? Kind of a run down area, right? Not a great place?
Me: [SHIT WHAT DID I JUST DO?] Uh, well, yeah, parts of it are dicey, but there’s a lot of nice places too. In the hills.
Border Guard: Is that where Concord is?
Me: Uh, no.
Border Guard: So you’re from the bad part of town?
Me: [FUUUUUUUUUUU…] No, no, Concord is nice. It’s several towns over – Like, it goes, Oakland, Berkeley, big tunnel, Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek then Concord.
Border Guard: And is that where Intel is located, Concord?
Me: No, it’s in Santa Clara.
Border Guard: So you work in Santa Clara? I thought you said you worked in San Francisco.
Me: [SHIT!] Well, I work for a company that was acquired by Intel that’s located in San Francisco. So I take BART every day to work from Concord.
Border Guard: But you’re in Detroit for work. Did you fly here?
Me: Yes. And I fly back out tomorrow.
[Border Guard Looks at my passport again. Looks at my license again. Pauses long enough that I legit think I’m about to be detained.]
Border Guard: [Folds license into passport and hands it to me.] OK, sir, have a good evening.
Me: [HOLYCRAPYES] Thank you, sir, you too.
I want to be clear – this was not friendly chit chat. I got the sense he was trying to catch me in a lie but, ultimately, was just making sure I was who I said I was. He wasn’t being a jerk about it at all, just being very stern and… well… border guardy. For the record, when going IN to Canada, the guy asked me where I was going, what I did for a living, why I was going to Windsor, then very skeptically asked me whether I intended on going anywhere else. Like, “Why the hell would ANYONE go to Windsor just to sight see?” That whole conversation took three minutes.
And this is why we need a wall.