I knew I was going to forget to mention something about Montreal....
So, on the way home from Canada, I got hassled twice by security.
I'm not sure if something about me screams "terrorist" but this was the fourth time I've been stopped at an airport for a random search.
Montreal definitely takes the cake, though.
At the regular security check, I got asked to step out of line and get searched, which was fine. The airport personnel dug through my carry-on bags and searched my body. The security guard was kind of cute, so I thought of it like most of my first dates minus dinner. It very well could have been random but I've just been asked to do this so many times.
I'm not sure how to feel about it. I feel like my name is on some kind of list somewhere.
After I got the big OK to mosey on through, I got harassed -- and I mean literally harassed -- at customs.
Anybody who knows me is aware that I don't travel light. When I went to Mexico City with a class last semester, I think I was the only person who packed two suitcases for eight days; everybody else had packed one. When I go home for a weekend trip, I usually pack a giant suitcase and a separate bag for belts and shoes. I think I'm physically incapable of packing lightly.
Montreal was no different.
I packed my two largest suitcases full, had my laptop bag full of wires and books and had carried on a separate bag full of shoes and random objects. My checked luggage weighed about 85-90 lbs combined.
Getting my luggage to Montreal was fine, but getting it back, through a customs agent, was a pain in the ass.
When I arrived at the counter, the man swiped my passport and immediately said, "we have a bit of a problem."
He didn't bother to ask where I was going, what I was doing, the usual customs-counter banter. He just stared at me and said, "we have a bit of a problem."
I imagined that when he swiped my passport through the reader the computer probably popped up a screen that read "FLIGHT RISK!!" or something hilarious like that.
"...problem?" I asked.
The agent inquired about why a person who was in Canada for seven days would need 95 lbs of luggage.
"Your one bag is 54 pounds and the other is over 40," he said.
"Oh, they didn't stop me when I checked the luggage. Is there any way they could shift four pounds out of the one bag to the other to comply to those weight restriction things?" I asked.
"This is customs," he snapped back. "If it made it through checked luggage, I don't give a shit how heavy it is. I just want to know what's in the bags."
"Oh ... clothing, belts, shoes," I answered. "What else would be in there?"
"You tell me," he said, spinning around his computer monitor to show a picture of my two suitcases on a conveyor belt, bulging at the seams.
I hate when people do stuff like this. It's that age-old mind fuck that people try to play with you. Kind of like how you discipline a dog when they fuck something up. You grab the shredded piece of whatever and present it to them, to let them know they've done wrong.
It was as if he thought the sight of my two pieces of luggage would elicit some knee-jerk confession out of me like:
"OH LAWRDY, THEY FOUND THE BOMB!! RUN!!"
"I'm moonlighting. This is my first stab at human trafficking."
I just kept staring at this guy like he was an asshole, because, well, he was being an asshole.
"You sure that's all you have in the bags?" he asked.
"Positive. It's clear from those pictures that I don't travel light. If you're not going to believe me, go ahead and search them ... shoes, belts and clothes."
"I just want to give you an opportunity to identify any items that we might find in there if we have to search your bags," he said.
"Look sir, you're not hearing me, so hear this. I was only in Montreal for a week, but I was at a journalism convention for gay people. I went through anywhere from two to three outfits a day. Ninety-five pounds of luggage seems a bit conservative for me. I've already paid for both bags to get on this flight. If I seem a little uncooperative it's because I'm tired and haven't slept all night and I just gave you guys 50 dollars to handle these bags.
"And don't you guys x-ray the luggage? For 50 dollars, you can't just run the bag through a machine to see that it's just belts, shoes and clothes?" I followed up.
"What do you do for a living?" he asked, skipping right past my mini rant.
"I'm a student," I answered.
"Where do you go?"
"What are you studying?"
"Jour-na-lis-m," I said slowly, as to indicate that I thought this man had a problem with hearing or comprehension.
At this point, I no longer cared about even trying to act polite.
"Do you work?" he asked.
"Not at the moment -- just school," I said.
"How does a nonworking student afford a week-long trip to Montreal?" he asked.
"What are you getting at?" I asked.
"...there's no dope in your bags?" he asked.
As soon as this man said the word "dope" I chuckled.
"Excuse me? Dope?" I laughed.
"No, there's no dope in my bags."
"You sure?" he asked.
"OK, you can go," he said.
So then I met back up with the three other students whom I went to the airport with. The shit was getting heavy and I needed some caffeine, so we decided to stop at this coffee kiosk near our gate.
While Lauren, Anthony, Blair and I were in line, two airline employees (I'm assuming a pilot and co-pilot by their outfits) turned around and asked me, "What the hell was that all about? At customs? I've never seen anybody get questioned that much."
"I don't know," I said.
It was ridiculous. I'm so happy to be home.