By on April 29, 2011

The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) today released A Decade of Decline in Person Crossings From Mexico and Canada into the United States, a review of the 10-year decline in border crossings by. “This report examines the trends in person crossings by mode rather than reasons for the decline,” says a DOT press release. In the quest for reasons, Ed and I road-tested the entry from Canada last night. We might have found an answer for the decline:

The Windsor Ballet wasn‘t at peak performance last night, so we bid Canada a quick au revoir and inserted our car into the tunnel to the Home of The Free. The border guard at the U.S. side subjected us to intense questioning, including whether we ever had been arrested or “in trouble.” I bit my tongue and swallowed the “not until now”. We then were asked various times how much cash we had. Ed’s answer of “20 bucks” was accepted at face value. I had to count the bills in my wallet. All this cooperation did not help. The guard slapped a sticker on our windshield and ordered us to move to “secondary inspection.”

On arrival at secondary, we were told to “open all windows, turn off the engine, pop the trunk and the hood, put all your cell phones on the dashboard and exit the vehicle.” Which we did.

We went inside. Barely in, another guard barked at me: “Take your hands out of your pockets.” This admonition made me feel young again. I had not heard it since I was in school, some time in the last millennium.

A motherly border guard subjected us to the same questioning. The object seemed to be to run down the clock until someone outside had searched the car and possibly the cell phones on the dashboard. When all the questions were exhausted, the border guard turned into an extension of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce. Had we been at the Ford Museum already? I promised I would be. “Too bad you can’t stay until July 4th, we will have a great Revolutionary War reenactment.” I expressed my sadness that I could not attend.

Finally, car and possibly cell phones had been searched and we were good to go. Time elapsed: About an hour.

No wonder cross-border traffic is down.

On Sunday, I’ll be on the flight to the police state of China. Immigration procedures as follows: Ni hao. Show passport. Border guard compares picture with face. Border guard checks visa. Wham, a red stamp in passport. Xie xie. 5 little buttons ranging from sad face to broad smiley invite me to rate the service received. Guard gets a big smiley. Time elapsed: 2 minutes.


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69 Comments on “Welcome To America...”

  • avatar

    The land of the brave and home of the free. Indeed.

  • avatar

    The problem as I see it (also being originally of German extraction, but with a permanent, non-expiring green card as opposed to the current version), is that much of the US population, most likely including the border guards, their training personnel, and definitely most if not all of the polticos, have never either been abroad or in the case of the upper level politicos, have never done so as a REGULAR person. (Imagine Dubya with a backpack and a rail pass…), thus enabling them to see A) how it is done in other civilized places and B) that the people around the world are much the same as the people in the US and C) that border security and especially airport security in the US is pretty much a joke compared to other places. All in the name of liberty and freedom for all…To top it all off, you then have truly sad scenarios like Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber etc. Homegrown, as American as apple pie yada yada yada…

    • 0 avatar

      I have the same card, looks a bit ragged now ….

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, mine is quite ragged as well, it is starting to delaminate and since I was 12 when the picture was taken, I get a lot of grief about it when I use it. However, getting a new one means it would need to be renewed every 5 years, which is a non-starter as far as I am concerned. I suppose I will eventually need to fill out the paperwork for US citizenship…However before doing that I need to apply for German (dual) citizenship for the kids. After researching it a few years ago, I realized that they are eligible because (and I paraphrase the german phrasing a little bit, but basically it says that they are eligible “since if they had a say in where they would be born, they clearly would have chosen Das Vaterland and they should not be disadvantaged because of circumstances beyond their control”. Made me laugh, typical german…

    • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    You and Ed were obviously too courteous and professional to the guards. They aren’t used to that. Last time I came back from Canada the crossing guard started acting like an ass to me, so I gave the attitude right back at him. I was on my way in no time.

  • avatar


    Love the “Windsor Ballet” reference.

    FWIW, it works both ways. The last time I went to the Toronto auto show, while going through Canadian customs at Sarnia (never drive through Detroit and Windsor when going to TO, the route via Port Huron and Sarnia is significantly faster), I made the mistake of using the word “work” when mentioning that I was going to work the auto show. That was enough to get me flagged and have to be interviewed by immigration. Fortunately they didn’t search the car.

    It’s a shame that the jihadis had to make what used to be one of the friendliest border crossings in the world into a hassle. When I was a kid my dad took Wed afternoons off, like many doctors, and would often take us out to dinner at a kosher place in Windsor. We went through customs so many times I used to be able to recite the standard questions. We’d say where we were born, where we’d been, and they’d tell us to have a nice night.

    A few years ago my son, my only son, whom I love, Moshe, and I each bought a suits at Freed’s a large men’s clothing store in Windsor. Very nice place with great customer service. When I went to pick them up after alterations, the US Customs guy asked a very clever question. When he asked where I’d been, I motioned to the garment bag hanging in the back and told him Freed’s. He then asked me what color suits they were.

    • 0 avatar

      Reminds me of the time I bought a suit at Freed’s. The deal was that they would reimburse the duty, so I had no reason to hide anything. I declared it and was told to go in the office. I figured they would charge me the duty, if any. I walk in and immediately hear my name. It was a customs trainee who had worked for me as a co-op student several years earlier (non customs related employment). After a small chat, she asked me why I came in. I told her and she just waved her hand and said nice seeing you.

  • avatar

    When coming back across the Rio Grande, I need to present a US Passport. 45 years ago my driver’s license didn’t even have photo on it. I miss the old pre-9/11 days.

    • 0 avatar

      @OldandSlow: Me too. When I lived in Missouri until coming to Ohio in 1992, my driver’s license didn’t have a photo, either. I actually memorized all 16 numbers of it in High School. It came in handy one day in 1969 on the way home when riding with a friend after we were pulled over for dogging about 6 ft. off the bumper of an un-marked Chrysler at around 75 mph on the highway and it turned out the two guys in the car were detectives – hats and all – transporting a prisoner in shackles! If it wasn’t for the slob in chains, it would’ve been us in that car!

  • avatar

    The relative amount of hassle to enter a country is proportional to the general desire to enter that country. I’m sure if you went to Libya about now you’d probably encounter abandoned border inspection points.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like a plausible theory. But doesn’t survive the real life test. I guess you had never crossed an East German or Russian border during Cold War times.

      European border guards usually are quite courteous and efficient.

      • 0 avatar

        How many people actually wanted to legitimately enter those countries during that period ? Getting out seemed to be more of a problem.

        There’s a current story about France halting a train of Tunisian refugees at its border and threatening to suspend the Schengen Agreement because of it. Could this have something to do with the generous social safety net provided by France once you can claim residence there ?

    • 0 avatar

      “The relative amount of hassle to enter a country is proportional to the general desire to enter that country. I’m sure if you went to Libya about now you’d probably encounter abandoned border inspection points.”

      Exactly.Just like North Korea.

  • avatar

    Living in Buffalo I travel to Toronto every month…only 90 minutes away. I have a Nexus pass. I had to apply, pay $80.00, had a thorough background check and interview by both American and Canadian border officials. Now I can go through a Nexus lane and am preapproved for entry with the flas of my card. The Whirlpool Bridge in Niasgara Falls is Nexus only….never a wait.

  • avatar

    I’ve always had a much tougher time with getting into Canada than getting back into the US.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the way it was for many years, but there’s been a radical increase in the hassle level over the last few years–in both directions. Oddly, it took several years after 9-11 before the hassles began.

      I really miss the days of driving across the border for a meal or a quick shopping trip, with little more than a “Have a nice day” from the border guards (and often without showing any ID whatsoever at the smaller crossings).

      Nowadays the only way to do it–even if you only cross a few times a year–is with a Nexus Card.

    • 0 avatar

      When entering Canada for work reasons, they’re always much tougher. They think I’m going to take some Canadian’s job away. When you tell them I’m here for some meetings with a Canadian supplier, and that we have a billion dollar contract for vehicles, they still think I’m trying to pull a fast one. One time, I got tired of the routine and told them, “fine, then I’ll just turn around and go home. Canadians will lose their jobs because the contract won’t get signed.” They got very friendly.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        As a Canadian citizen who sometimes has to go to the USA for work reasons, it’s a royal pain in that direction, too, and for the same reasons – they think I’m taking an American job away.

        My profession is supposed to have free access across the border due to NAFTA, but I still figure on being grilled for an hour and having to point out the specific clause in NAFTA and proving that I am eligible under that clause … it is a royal pain.

  • avatar

    Golly, that has never happened to me in all the times I returned to San Diego from Tijuana. You must have looked suspicious. Either that, or you were the fifth car, or seventh – whichever number they used that day.

    It often seems to depend on who’s on duty that day, and/or whether they think they’re being monitored by a supervisor. It also depends on how bored the staff is, leading to a little drumming up of business to break the monotony. A married couple in a rental car? Wave ’em through. Two unrelated men in a rental car? Let’s take a look.

    The Border Patrol and Customs will deny all that, but I got all those crazy ideas from a former co-worker who had been a Border Patrolman.

  • avatar

    I’ve crossed over to Windsor tens of times and thankfully never had a second inspection. Ever since I was 17 and crossing without parents, I just pulled right up to the shack with passport right in my fingertips and handed it to them before even being asked. I did it with a Brazilian Passport and Green Card and after getting my US citizenship.

    What I saw with my friends who never traveled outside the US is that they had a sense of entitlement when they reached the border, “Hey, I’m an American because I said so, don’t you you know this?”.
    They got a whole lot more questions than I ever did.

    Ohh, and the ballet is not as good as it used to be. Must be the economy, all the good dancers have moved to better performing companies. Yup, those were some great performances ……

  • avatar

    I guess you guys have not been stopped driving by the police? Off the cuff comments will cost you everytime.

    • 0 avatar

      Not necessarily. Last time a cop stopped me, when he got to the whole “Do you have any guns, knives, hand grenades in the car?” I told him I had a thermonuclear device. He got a good laugh out of that and he gave me a warning and off I went.

      • 0 avatar


        You got balls. They pulled the pistol on me when I answered:”Maybe.”

      • 0 avatar


        I would never, ever, say “maybe” if a cop asks that question. Something outlandish like a high powered nuke, sure (a clean Mazda3 driven by a clean caucasian male with no priors isn’t usually seen as a threat), but NEVER maybe. Cops like things in black and white (including their cars). If I had the slightest thought that someone had easily concealable weapons to use against me, I’d have my pistol at the ready too.
        I said the nuke thing a couple years ago to a small town cop at 2am in the middle of BFE. I wouldn’t to a statie or a fed.

    • 0 avatar

      “Do you have any guns, knives, hand grenades in the car?”
      “Whaddaya need?”

  • avatar

    Make sure you don’t mention that you have apples/fruit in the car. That’ll land you right in the secondary inspection. BIG NO-NO.

    I have been through secondary inspection more than once, despite my US passport. One time with my wife and baby (15 months old). Another time I had several foreign citizens in the car and the US border guard did not even ask for our papers.

    Yet another time it was extremely weird. US boarder guards stopped and searched me when LEAVING US. I don’t know what was up with that. It was extremely weird because as soon as I pulled out my US passport, they immediately excused themselves and very politely wished me a pleasant journey.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Windsor Ballet, right… must have not properly streched before the performance and lacked flexability. I hate it when that happens while I’m at the ballet.

    BTW it used to be easier, but then we had this thing happen back in 2001. You might have heard about it. (Not that I support all this silly security but I wonder what China’s reaction would have been if it had happened to them.)

    • 0 avatar

      Doesn’t it strike you as a sad epitaph for American freedom — “We had this thing happen back in 2001”?

      I’m pretty sure that saying — the price of freedom is paid from time to time, and the price of having opportunity and liberty to do what you will is that some people will do bad things — is not very popular. If you want to be free and welcoming, sometimes bad people take advantage of that — your choice becomes to decide that everybody should be scrutinized for being a potential bad guy (and just accept permanent paranoia) or realize that every bunch has a bad apple, and some are particularly bad, but you forgo a lot assuming all are bad.

      But, this is an auto site. One of the things that inspires people to love cars is that they represent a freedom of movement heretofore unavailable to mankind — a realization of freedom relived by every kid who gets a crappy used car and loves that thing with its squeaking brakes, shaky transmission, and balding tires. A Schwinn is not going to give you the same freedom to say — hey, I’m going to move 200 miles and get a new job; I’m going to drive 30 miles and spend some money at a nice place; I’m going to relocate 800 miles to a more favorable climate; I’m going to pour $20 into the gas tank and drive around killing time listening to a V8 rumble.

      Canada’s a great place. It has some excellent driving roads. Freedom takes a hit when you can’t leave the rock-and-crater scramble of SE Michigan and go see some “exotic” Ontarians rolling in your Detroit (Oshawa??) muscle and then freely return and get back on with your life…

      One wonders — when do we ever get to be free to go visit our neighbors and return unmolested — not treated as a criminal for having a smartphone to scan or cash that’s going to be taken as signs of drug money? Or is that as much a watershed as Legion 13 crossing the river? It’s probably as moot as asking — when is domestic air travel going to be pleasant again?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        All excellent points you have raised. And perhaps because of the given irrationalness of many human beings the point may be moot.

        Would we be better off adopting the approach of Great Britain of having cameras everywhere? Should we assume that no matter the measures we take we will be attacked? All vaild questions missing from the public dialouge.

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    The last time I crossed the border coming in, pretty sure it was Windsor, I had the secondary inspection. It was kinda intimidating in a, “are they gonna try and pin something on me” way. Why, yes, I do have a distrust of absolute authority.

  • avatar

    Love the comments. You want to make a border crossing lots of fun? Ride a Harley Springer Softail, and fly colors of a (non-1%er) motorcycle club on your back.

    • 0 avatar

      Syke, I do embroidery and some of my best customers are bike clubs and their members, both three patch M/Cs and social clubs. Even the M/Cs are real careful about getting tagged with the 1%er label. I made a custom patch for a friend of mine with that classic graphic of the soles of two pairs of feet obviously doing the deed inside a triangle, like a traffic sign saying it was a f*cking zone. He loved the patch but the guys in the club insisted that only 1%ers wear triangular patches. I’m no biker but as far as I can tell, all the 1%er patches are diamond shaped. I guess that shows how paranoid they are about the tag – or how little this particular club knows about biker culture.

      Bikers keep a lot of embroiderers in business.

      BTW, I hope the management doesn’t mind a small plug (Jack told people they could sign up for track instruction) if you ever need any kind of embroidery, like a custom patch (lettering or graphic, I do my own digitizing), colors for your club, or a custom seat cover, let me know.

      I’d never done upholstery until last year. I’d embroidered ready made car seat covers, but never tried to wrap something myself. A friend asked if I could put Afro Samurai on his bike seat. When the local upholstery shop said they’d charge me $45 to do the wrapping after I did the embroidery, I said FTS, I have a staple gun and a steamer, so I tried wrapping it myself. It’d be easier if there wasn’t an embroidery that has to be centered and aligned with the seat, and I really need an upholsterer’s staple gun with a needle nose, but so far I’ve done about a half dozen seats and people are pretty happy with them.

      • 0 avatar


        It goes further than that. If you’re talking an M/C you watch the colors that go into your patch (red and white colors in an area controlled by the Outlaws is a definite no-no, likewise black and white if the Angels are top dog). The design itself better not infringe on a 1%er club’s design. Most local M/C’s are reasonably smart – before they form, they go and talk to the local 1%ers. Contrary to popular citizen belief, that’s not putting your life at risk; and if anything, said 1%er club will usually be reasonably helpful in the organization.

        What really differs is the geography. When I lived in western PA, the local mountain ridge was the dividing line. Outlaws on our side of the ridge, Pagans on the Pittsburgh side. The border had been established in the early/mid-80’s and it’s a very peaceful place to be a biker. Richmond? It’s Pagan, but there’s a lot of Angels who keep showing up from time to time – unmolested, yet. Which is why I dropped out of my last club three years ago. Seems I caused a bit of problem with the Angels, and it behooved me to get scarce. The scene’s way too volatile for a guy like me. Who’s yet to ever punch someone out, by the way.

        There’s nothing so beautiful as a well designed and made set of colors. My old club in PA, which I helped found, had the colors designed by my ex-wife (a professional graphics artist), and they always looked good when we were on the road. Still glad I’ve got my set. The club is now a chapter of the Outlaws – family runs deep.

  • avatar

    When I was 22, in 1975 a companion and I bicycled into Canada at Sault St. Marie, on our way across the continent. We were interrogated by a Canadian who reminded me of the junior sheriff from Alabama. They questioned us about drug habits and god knows what else. Then, a woman border guard took everything out of my panniers, piece by piece–rank underwear, some cheese I hadn’t seen since we’d pedaled across Montana, and other treasures. I am guessing the whole process took 45 minutes to an hour before we were on our way.

    I re-entered the United States (alone now) at the very northeast corner of New York. The border guard asked me a bit about my trip in a very friendly way, we chatted for a few minutes, and I was on my way.

  • avatar

    I haven’t done it in several years, but I’ve cross to and from Canada multiple times via the entry point by the Thousand Islands Bridge. IIRC, the Canadian entry point is a small affair, usually with just a couple guards, or at least it seemed that way at night when I usually went through. Going into Canada the questions were just the basic ‘why are you coming in, do you have a radar detector, do you have any firearms’.

    Coming back into the US, which is a much larger border setup, the questions always seemed to revolve around how many bottles of alcohol were in the car, how many tobacco products, and particularly, cuban cigars. On one occasion the exchange went along the lines of “Do you have any Cuban cigars?” “No” “You’re aware that bringing Cuban cigars into the US is illegal, are you sure there are no Cuban cigars in the vehicle?” “Yes, I’m sure” “If we were to search the car and found any Cuban cigars the fine is (insert whatever the fine was). Are you sure some didn’t fall out and roll around the trunk maybe?” “Yes, I’m positive, no Cuban cigars” “OK, have a nice day” and he waved me through.

    The cell phone and laptop searches at border points are ridiculous. I’m going to have to make a point to mail my cell phone to myself across the border the next time I cross.

  • avatar

    It is getting very bad. The country that used to be very relaxed and welcomed everyone has become the least welcoming, even for its own citizens.

    I had the car search done once, and what angers me is that you are not allowed to watch them search your car and witness any wrong doings.

  • avatar

    There’s a certain Casio watch they look out for. It’s an old school model that’s still sold in Kmarts. Could have been anything that set off the secondary ‘probe’… That Casio can apparently be programmed to set off bombs and is issued to recruits at terrorist training camps.

  • avatar

    The US border guards still aren’t as bad as the British ones. Every time I’ve gone to that country, they’ve grilled me, and yet continental guards just look at me, the picture, and stamp the passport.

    By the way, Bertel, have you ever considered that maybe the reason you get into China so easily is because they know you’re a western businessman and don’t bother harassing you, at risk of being picked up by the mobile execution van?

    I happen to have had some friends who were killed by that regime you sarcastically call a police state. Something tells me they are only showing you one side of things.

  • avatar

    What you have to understand is the government’s policy is to make it hard to enter the US legally, but easy to enter illegally.

    And no, I’m not kidding.

  • avatar

    DenverMike – “There’s a certain Casio watch they look out for. It’s an old school model that’s still sold in Kmarts. Could have been anything that set off the secondary ‘probe’… That Casio can apparently be programmed to set off bombs and is issued to recruits at terrorist training camps.” One of Casio’s old slogans was “Casio. Technology for life.” Life? Perhaps Timex’s would have been better: “It takes a lickin’, but it keeps on tickin’.” Now, back to my Friday-night Newcastle!

  • avatar

    Bertel, suppose you drove a car into China from, say, Kazakhstan. “Ni hǎo” or “bù hǎo” at that point? I’m not being sarcastic, just curious. Now, back to my beer.

  • avatar

    I can honestly say that I’ve never been to the Windsor Ballet (for a whole host of reasons), but if you had mentioned you were coming across I would have bought you a beer. Oh well.

  • avatar

    Back in the 1980s I crossed the Colombia-Ecuador border by car many times. The routine involved not only cursory presentation of passport and receipt of border stamps, but also that a liberal dose of insecticide be applied to the vehicle (likely still DDT in that neck of the woods). The service was provided not by the border officials but by locals who had been granted the privilege and could charge pretty much what they wanted. Objecting to the typically unreasonable fee was a sure way to experience a miserable border crossing experience.

    At the Canadian border (whether BC or Ontario) I’ve only gotten asked the purpose of my trip (tourism) and whether I have any firearms.

    I travel a lot–always have and always will. I always make sure I am clean and neatly dressed, speaking the language of the entry country as well as I can (even if only a few words), and polite. I also humbly remind myself that I am in the presence of a bureaucrat who can legitimately make the process unpleasant, slow, or even deny me entry–or detain me if entering my own country.

    I almost never have any hassle at all. When I do it is more likely in South America or eastern Europe (non EU) and never in Asia or Africa. Though rare (twice in 40 years of passports with extra pages in them) the most extreme hassle I’ve had is returning to the USA after long stays in iffy countries.

  • avatar

    I grew up an hour from Detroit on the Canadian side of the border, and lived in Windsor in the shadow of the Ambassador bridge while in university. Twenty years ago, we used to cross the border for everything. We wouldn’t think twice about slipping over to Detroit to fill up with gas, which took no longer than doing it in Windsor. Post 9/11, forget it. I still cross the border regularly, and am bemused by the questions I get entering the US (where do I work, how much money am I carrying, fruits and vegetables, how do I intend to finance my trip, record of convictions, what is my licence plate number, etc.) Crossing back, the Canadians are singularly concerned about alcohol and tobacco. No smokes or booze? Come on in! My dad is a retired OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), and did a joint training exercise with Canada Customs years ago. Based on his observations after two weeks in a customs booth, he always follows a few simple rules when crossing the border: have your hands visible, only speak when spoken to, don’t offer more information than what is asked, answer yes sir, no ma’am, and have your documents ready. I have followed these rules for twenty years, and have never been waved over to secondary inspection.

  • avatar

    You should try crossing into Canada, or back into the US, with an Asian wife and a son who is half Asian half Caucasian.

    My brother on the other hand crossed, both ways, with an expired student ID.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      No troubles for my Asian wife and myself crossing into Canada at the I-5/Hwy 99 crossing south of Vancouver. Never been selected for secondary inspection.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m going to get extra scrutiny over a woman (whom I’m about to be married to) who has at times been mistaken for my daughter. (Though there are only 7 years difference in our ages.)

  • avatar

    All the smart people are leaving the US and none are reentering. The country gets stupider every day.

    Enjoy your police state!


    • 0 avatar

      All the smart people are leaving the US and none are reentering.

      You obviously haven’t noticed the demographics of those working in the medical and information technology fields, where a disproportionate number of workers are non-U.S. born.

      I despise the “police state” you refer to, but also acknowledge that there are still people in this world who see the opportunities, if one is willing to work for them (and therein lies the issue)…

  • avatar

    I have crossed into the states and back into Canada hundreds of times and only had a few issues with US immigration, like the night we all decided to go for dinner at a popular mexican joint just across the line. One of the guys was a muslim and this was the night Gulf War 1 commenced. We were held and searched, then politely released with the admonishment to avoid the refried beans at Ernesto’s. Another time I was driving a car that matched the description of one used in a child abduction. Both times we were treated with courtesy and dealt with in a professional manner. I suspect the US INS is primarliy interested in intercepting folks who don’t plan to leave the US once admitted. If you don’t fit that profile you don’t get bothered much.
    As noted above, Canada Customs seems primarily interested in guns, booze and smokes. Wouldn’t want to miss a taxation opportunity (or have hand guns in the hands of private citizens). I don’t smoke or shoot and I like our beer better so it’s usually clear sailing here as well. The last time I was pulled into secondary inspection was years ago, apparently in a random search. In my experience, crossing the border at vehicle crossings is not much different than it ever was, at least here in the western provinces/states. Airports? Now your talking hassles.

  • avatar

    The guards were profiling. Two men in a car is suspicious.

    I cross the border every year for vacation with the family. When you have a minivan filled with 7 people, a dog, and fun-at-the-lake stuff, they let you go right through. 25 years, same result every time.

  • avatar

    As desirable as it may be, apparently Superman is threatening to give up his U.S. citizenship.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    US Customs used to search my green S5 every time but now the Town Car passes through without drama. I raise a lot of red flags at a border crossing due to my history of removing tags from mattresses and similar offenses but generally it’s okay.

    Going through the bilingual line and using one’s miserable French also helps for some reason.

  • avatar

    With the dollar becoming cheaper by the day, the U.S.A. should become a tourist and shopping mecca again. Believe it or not, many electronic articles are cheaper at Best Buy than in a Chinese market.

    HOWEVER, I know of many well-off Europeans who decided to never again spend their money in the U.S., simply due to cross-border hassles. Tourism is a big industry. This is killing a formerly vibrant industry.

  • avatar

    The US/Canada border is not a nice crossing any more. I’ve had more problems, esp. at the US side, than with any other borders in the world.

    e.g. Back in 2005 I travelled in the Middle East. The Syrian/Jordanian and Lebanese/Syrian borders were both much like how Chinese formalities were described. The Egyptian borders were even easier: glance at the passport, stamp, smile, and wave.

    The Israeli land frontiers, of course, are rigorous. However, at least the Israelis were professional, polite, and efficient–just very thorough searches and scans, plus about 20-25 minutes of interrogation.

    But none of the silly sargeant-major act and jackbooted garbage you can get in North America nowadays.

    The jihadis didn’t do this to us. We did it to ourselves, and the late, unlamented Osama had himself a good laugh.

  • avatar

    Meh… As a regular commuter across the border, for work, I can tell you that it goes both ways. I’ve been pulled into the search area on the US and Canadian sides. Sometimes they are just random and other times they have to go with their gut.

    My mom is German and crosses the border every weekend. I know you never mentioned it, but I assume you have a German accent? A combination of “an accent”, along with your diplayed nervousness, gave them enough cause to be pulled over.

  • avatar

    I agree that US borders are ridiculous, so are airline security procedures.

    However, my recent experience getting into China wasn’t quite as smooth as Bertel describes…the customs agent in Dongguan didn’t believe that the photo in my passport was really me. I provided him with my US driver’s license and other id’s in my wallet to ensure it was indeed me. He scrutinized it for 20 minutes, which may not really sound too long, but makes one a bit nervous in such a situation. When he finally gave me the stamp and sent me through I wanted to give him the lowest rating on the little device that they ask you to press to rate their service, but feared the consequences considering they were already skeptical of my identity and I had better things to do than deal with customs agents any further.

  • avatar

    I just wish they’d staff the borders adequately. Last time we went for a lunch and a little shopping in Vancouver, on the way back to the Land of the Free we had to wait 3 1/2 hours. A few people were running out of gas, the duty free shop-snack bar on the Canadian side at Peace Arch was out of everything to eat or drink except liquor and their bathrooms were among the worst I’ve ever seen. Of course, the electronic “wait time” signs were out of order.

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