Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vancouver Nonsense

So, I'm in Tokyo right now and I LOVE IT SO MUCH, but I'm posting this Vancouver post now because I thought I should be a safe distance from Canadian immigrations when I do.

Just kidding. But seriously.

I took my little puddle-jumper flight from Oregon to Vancouver, and all was well, and then I got to immigration at Vancouver airport. . .


The customs lady asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Canada, and I was like, "Just going to look around the city a bit," and she was like:

"You look around ze city? What is zis tomfoolery."
And then she scrawled red all over my card and handed me off to immigration police.

Um, excuse you? What part of that was suspicious. It's called tourism. You go to a random city, you look around it, and then you leave. I even showed her my connecting flight info to Tokyo so she wouldn't think I was going to run away to the badlands and put down roots and become an illegal Canadian bush-tracker or whatever people do there.

Clearly I looked like I was all about becoming a Canadian bush-tracker, though, because I was herded into this icky back room and was told to wait in line with about twenty other people who all looked very confused or frightened or drug-smuggler-y.

And then I waited. And these immigration people are the slowest everrrrr. Partly because of the people they had to talk to. Here is a selection of the exchanges I eavesdropped on for your reading pleasure:

Exchange 1

Customs Lady: "You have meat in your suitcase. Like, nasty raw meat in vacuum packaging. This is illegal."

Meatpacking Lady: "Oh."

Exchange 2

Customs Dude: "So, you'll be able to go to your sister's wedding. . . "

Everyone eavesdropping:


". . . and then someone will be there to arrest you."

Exchange 3

Customs Lady: "Sooooo, you don't actually HAVE a visa, and your application for studying here was denied, but you came anyway?"

Taiwanese girls: *nod excitedly*

Customs Lady: "D'you understand why this is a problem?"

Taiwanese girls: *nod excitedly*

Customs Lady: "We're going to have to send you home."

Taiwanese girls: *nod excitedly*

Exchange 4

Customs Lady: "How much money do you make each year."

Lady-with-Big-Hair: "Excuse me? What is this about?"

Customs Lady: "Are you going to answer the question, ma'am? Answer the question! I'm allowed to ask you whatever I want. Answer the questionnnnn!!!"

(Uh, maybe don't let the immense power of being a tourist checker at the Vancouver airport go to your head.)

Exchange 5

Customs Dude: "Why are you in Canada?"

Lady: "Ummmmm. Uhhhh. Hahahaha!"

Customs Dude: "But why?"

Lady: "Oh, you know, hahahaha, giggle."

Customs Dude: "You are making me very angry. See these confused and/or drug-smuggler-y people in that line? You're making them angry, too."

Lady: "I know, yeah, sorry, sorry, what was the question?"

CD: "Whyyyyyy are you herrrrrrreeeeeeeee?"

Lady: "Ohhhhh, hahaha, lolololol."

CD: "Ok, I'm leaving until you can give me a straight answer."

Lady: "K lulz."

Everyone in line: "NO PLEASE COME BACK!"

CD: *returns half an hour later* "Are you ready to talk to me?"

Lady: "Yes. I'm going to Yellowstone National Park. On a bus."

(Why could you not have said this half an hour ago? It is a mystery.)

CD: "Yellowstone, huh? Are you traveling alone? Is someone picking you up outside the airport?"

Lady: "Yeah. His name's John."

CD: "John who?"

Lady: "Actually Bob."

CD: "What?"

Lady: "I'm being picked up by Bob."

CD: "Bob who?"

Lady: "Ummmmm, uhhh, just Bob- "


Lady: "La-di-da." *fiddles with phone*

*repeat ad nauseam for another half hour*

CD: "Ok, you can go." *stamps passport*

Lady: "Huzzah!"

And then it was ten other people's turn.

I had a book with me, and it was a really trashy crime thriller that I subsequently actually trashed, and the immigration police people were like, "What is that kid doing READING BOOKS IN SCARY ROOM FULL OF POLICE OFFICERS THIS IS AGAINST THE RULES OF INTIMIDATION" because everyone else was nervously twiddling their thumbs.

I was terrified, too, because what if I were actually a criminal and just never realized? but books are very comforting, even trashy crime thrillers, and I highly recommend having one with you for emergencies.

Eventually it was my turn and they asked me all the same questions Miss Suspicious asked at the customs desk, and then they went and phoned someone.

CD: "Ok, follow me."

Me: I will die now. They take me to be executed on grounds of visiting Vancouver without a particularly pressing reason.

Customs Dude took me to a door that said exit.

Me: "Are you kidding?"

CD: "I am not. Bye."

And then I left, and I hated all of their guts for about ten minutes while I found a taxi.

So much gut-hating going on.
Because seriously what was up with thaaaaat? The only other people in that room were obviously foreign ones, which is something called racial profiling if I'm not mistaken, and I'm wondering if maybe she pulled me out because I said I lived in Switzerland; but the thing is I speak fairly regular bubblegum American, and my passport is a standard US one, and so WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

Whatever. It was an experience. And I thought it was interesting to see how people only follow laws if a) it's convenient for them and doesn't interfere with their plans, or b) the penalties are suitably scary. Also, c) if they're actually aware of the laws, which is not a given because some people make up laws like it's THEIR JOB, resulting in quite a lot of laws that no one has any clue even exist.

So meatpacking lady was probably like "Uh, hello, I want nasty vacuum packed meat in my suitcase, so off I go," and she did, and I have no doubt that many, many people run through security with all sorts of junk, and customs pick out the stereotypes and act like it proves a point when really it just proves that people are human and prone to doing whatever suits them.

So. I hope they were super disappointed that I was just a silly book-reading tourist and it wasn't an elaborate cover up for my sinister Swiss ways.

I escaped the airport and the rest was great, and I really don't want to imply that I think less of Canada for this experience, because everyone I met *outside* of the airport was really polite and friendly and all-round-jolly-good. Vancouver was nice, and there were cruise-ships, and my hotel had curtains that open and close via button-pushing, so I was well-entertained.

Tokyo in a different post. Byeee! :)


  1. I am going to be giggling about this all week now. It is cruddy, being stuck with drug smugger looking people, know, you got a cool story out of it. And now you can tell people you were almost arrested for looking like a suspicious Swiss spy. Might come in handy someday. Look good on a resume or something.

    1. Haha! *adds to resume* "SPECIAL SKILLS: Can look like a suspicious Swiss spy if necessary."

  2. Jolly good rendition of your nightmare! I lolled several times. *where* do you get all the amazing gifs? Love the customs lady!

    1. Tumblrrrr! :) Or else I just google the emotion I'm trying to express and add "gif" to the end of the query. There are SO MANY GOOD ONES.

  3. This was probably your best blog post so far. I laughed out loud a lot! Keep the updates in entertaining writing coming!

  4. I'm well-acquainted with these airport/immigration shenanigans (every country I've been has their fair share maybe), so, much feels too XD Now I'll go off on Interweb to share this to some friends who went to India and went through 37% of events recorded on your post

    1. Is it not the worst? It is. So much sympathy for all the people who have to travel to uninviting countries. O.o

  5. This was very funny. Told you you should do more people-observation posts, even if the observed people aren't always portrayed in the best light.
    What was the trashy crime thriller?

    1. POPPET. I know you liked it, but I thought it was awfullll. I'll tell you about it when I'm back. :)