Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Canada Cracks Down on Nerdiness At The Border

I have many awesome stories about HeroesCon, which was pretty much the best weekend ever. I'll post a lot more over the next few days, but I want to start with a story from yesterday when I was flying home.

After a long day of delayed flights and airport confusion, I was taken aside at customs and put in one of those side rooms so they could grill me and inspect my luggage. At midnight. Because, y'know, I'm pretty suspicious. I think my mistake may have been saying I was at a comic book convention.

Anyway, I got all my bags opened and emptied and the whole time was getting this from the security guy:

Dude: You like comics?
Me (exhausted): Yes
Dude: What kind of comics?
Me: Lots...of...comics?
Dude: You collect comics?
Me: Yes
Dude: You buy any down there?
Me: Yes. A few. And some artwork
Dude: You have receipts for that?
Me: No...they didn't really have any receipts there.
Dude: You own a comic shop?
Me: No!
Dude: What do you do for a living in Nova Scotia?
Me: I'm a student.
Dude (opening bag and holding up comics one at a time and flipping through each one forever): Daredevil, Fantastic Four...what did you think of the movies?
Me: Um...they were ok? Not great?
Dude (holding an issue of Superman Family): When would this comic be from?
Me: The seventies sometime?
Dude: How many comics do you own?
Me: I don't know...thousands?
Dude: How long you been collecting those?
Me: Years?
Dude (takes out my sketchbook and flips through it): How long does it take these guys to draw these pictures?
Me: A few minutes, usually?
Dude: You always take a sketchbook with you?
Me: It was my first time to a convention, but probably I will.
Dude (holding up an Invincible comic suspiciously): I've never heard of this guy.
Me: Uh...he's new...

Yeah, so it went on like this, with the guy inspecting each and every book and nerdy item in my suitcase. It was really pretty embarrassing.

Meanwhile, at the Charlotte airport when I was leaving all I got from security was a guy smiling and pointing to my shirt and saying "Aquaman! Alright!"


Johnathan said...

To be fair, terrorists are notoriously bad at remembering things about their hobbies. And they all *love* any movie based on a Marvel lisence.

KaiserTheGreat said...

I got pulled aside on my way into Canada. Not sure why, as no on else on the plane did. My only guess is that I mentioned something about the internet to the customs guy, and next thing you know I'm in the little room and they're asking me a billion and one questions about the people I was going to visit.

Maybe they really don't like nerdiness, over there. Perfect country, indeed!

Benito said...


rachelle said...

I especially liked the implication that I was somehow tricking him with the Invincible comics. Like I had made the character up or something.

What a confusing ordeal.

I actually forgot this part...he also took one of the little zines i made about my blog and was like "what's this?" and I explained it and he was like "how many hits do you get on your blog?" and i told him and he was like "is it just about comic books". It was nuts.

"It's just about comics...and how to build bombs that you can sneak past security in airports."

Oh god, I'm going to get arrested just for posting this, aren't I?

Dr. K said...

Just imagine what he would have said if he found your copy of "The Hard Ones"!

Brian said...

I get pulled aside by airport security anytime I fly anywhere. They must have known you got a lift to the airport from us and thought I snuck something into your bag.

Sorry your return trip was such a pain.

rachelle said...

Dr K - haha, yeah! I kind of convinced him not to go through the bag of assorted zines and mini-comics. Who knows what he would have made of those titles.

Chris Sims said...

He would've thought you were a true, God-Fearing American.

Ralph Mathieu said...

The following comment doesn't have anything to do with this entry of yours, rather it is my follow upp to your dressing as Big Barda last Halloween, in which I commented thaqt I was thinking of getting a Big Barda tattoo.

Well yesterday my Big Barda tattoo got colored and I think it came out fantastic and thought I'd share: http://ichliebecomicsblogspot.com

Rob said...

It's a good thing that you were only carrying comics! It's five years minimum for carrying Star Trek paraphernalia over the border. Not to mention those poor saps carrying D&D books... they are never heard from again!

Seriously though, getting quizzed on your comics? How is that possibly helping public safety?

Wrye said...

Sadly, this kind of experience isn't uncommon, and it predates 9/11 by a lot. I will bet you dollars to donuts this is about porn. And so is their interest in the internet, kaiser. If you have a laptop, why would you have it except to smuggle porn? Canada Customs are notorious for this. Google The Little Sisters Bookstore Case (Americans, especially, may not be familiar with it) for some idea why. At some point, Customs decided that All Independent comics and zines, particularly anything remotely Gay or Lesbian, were potential porno. If you'll note in your monthly copy of previews, a lot of the racier titles are unavailable in Canada - this is why.

Stacy said...

Weird. . .I've been to Dragon*Con and Emerald City, and haven't run into any problems at the border. Even with a CRV-trunkful of swag that my friends had bought we got a few yes/no questions and were waved on through.

My strategy has always been that when I'm travelling between the U.S. and Canada I hide Stacy the Fanboy Demigod behind the meek and mild-mannered facade of Mr. D. Business casual dress, my glasses, papers in order. If asked if I bought anything down there I usually say 'a couple books'.

Of course, having said that my next experience will doubtless be hellish. But I sympathize with your plight as a fellow fan travelling across the border.


Gyuss Baaltar said...

Simply amazing.

I can't even begin to think about what they were looking for. Terrorists laundering money through back issues?
And what if you'd failed his little quiz? Would it have made a difference if you were carrying funny books and had no idea who any of the characters were?

running42k said...

I never find Canada Customs to be as bad as the US guys.

With the question about whether you own a comic shop, I think he was trying to see whether they should have assessed duties and GST on any purchases.

rachelle said...

Ralph - that's a great tattoo! That link didn't work, but this one does, if anyone else wants to see it.

Barda Tattoo!

SallyP said...

That...that's bizarre. Did he think that you were trying to corrupt the god-fearing folk of Nova Scotia with your thirty-year old funnybooks?

Or maybe he secretly just wanted a way to read them, and this was the only way he could do it on company time?

mike abbott said...

Terrorists are known to soak comic pages in high explosives and biological agents in order to smuggle those across borders.
They always use al-qaida created comics so they don't get mixed in with their 'real' comics.
Those comics are always poorly written, poorly drawn and have ridiculous made up for the purpose characters like 'Invincible' that are secretly symbols of the great jihad.
You are lucky your not in gitmo.

Kris Black said...

HA! That was terrible. I mean, not that you got pulled into a security room and quizzed on comics. The terrible part was what the dude said at the Charlotte airport about your Aquaman shirt. Apparently, he hasn't read an Aquaman comic in decades.

Stephen said...

That was a great read. I am glad that you enjoyed coming to North Carolina. That was my first time at Heroes Con and I had a great time to. The Dollar Bin guys mentioned your site so I will be checking it out from now on. Great site by the way.

Swinebread said...

sounds to me like he just wanted to look at your comics n stuff

Lamson said...

As a fellow Canuck, what do you really expect with who we have running Public Safety? Everybody knows that them funny book pictures are a direct source of godless-ness that will make people reject their heterosexuality...

I sympathize. I'll never understand border guards. When I travel with my blond wife, for some reason, she always has to take off her shoes (even sandals!) for inspection but I get waved through as though I was the pope.

The moral of the story is obvious though - Canada is so awesome that we should never think of leaving.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, at the Charlotte airport when I was leaving all I got from security was a guy smiling and pointing to my shirt and saying "Aquaman! Alright!" "

America, F*CK YEAH!!!

ThePariah said...

The terrible part was what the dude said at the Charlotte airport about your Aquaman shirt. Apparently, he hasn't read an Aquaman comic in decades.

He just knows Aquaman can chuck polar bears at you. Knows and appreciates. ;)

Siskoid said...

Oh Rachelle, you always have the best stories!

Wrye is right. It's all about the porn. Or rather the "obscenity" because they will stop and hold what is considered to be "obscene literature" (no pictures!) and stuff like serial killer collectible cards.

Just so you don't think I have a serial killer fetish, I know this because I lived in a border town for most of my youth and had plenty of friends who worked summers in the customs office.