An encounter with three men wearing latex gloves and sidearms
I was up in Michigan and Wisconsin this week missing out on being in NC for the Stanley Cup victory party compliments of the Carolina Hurricanes. Whooo. Whooo, Whooo! (Gotta love Rick Flair.)
Anyway, I was not totally removed from Hockey fever. While in my hometown of Detroit I took a side trip in my rental car to Windsor Canada. Not to take in a hockey game or the "Windsor ballet", but to open a bank account with Royal Bank of Canada - the company with their name on the publicly subsidized indoor stadium the Hurricanes and Wolfpack play in. RBC bought out NC based Centura bank a couple of years back. A respectable feat since Centura Bank would have ranked something like the third largest bank in Canada at the time.
While opening a business account with RBC Centura last year I was informed that I could transfer US to Canadian dollars back and forth between my RBC accounts in Canada and the US without paying an additional currency exchange charge...similar to the sweetheart deal the FED cut for the Latino Credit Union based in Durham, NC to assist Mexicans living in the US both legally and illegally. Catch was, no matter how legal I am, I was based in the US and US banking laws did not allow me to open an account in Canada from the US. Were I to go to Canada however, where the banking laws on this point are more generous, I was told I could open a pair of accounts one being in each country.
And so with the opportunity finally to become an international banking tycoon, I headed south across the border from Detroit into Canada. I took the tunnel and had found only a one car wait at Canadian Customs & Immigration. While not overly hospitable the female government agent at the check point was courteous enough as she queried me on my citizenship, place of residence and purpose for entering her country. When I was upfront about my intention to open a bank account she momentarily paused as if considering to pursue more intense questioning. Perhaps it was the 40's something white guy in a suit and tie image, but in the end she simply shrugged her shoulders with a bureaucratic harrumph and bid me a good day in Canada. Within a two block ride, I was soon in the downtown Windsor branch of RBC chatting with two personable Canadians regarding the Stanley Cup prospects for the Hurricanes. It took $100 Canadian to open my two new accounts. And I was soon out the door.
Getting back to the US has of course has become another story. Tunnel guards were rationing the amount of cars they would let into the tunnel on the Canadian side since, as I found out on the other end, the US Customs and Immigration Service (now TSA) was running about a twelve car backup which stretched back into the egress of the tunnel. It took me about 45 minutes to reach an inquisitor on the US side whereas it took less than 5 on the Canadian side. To be fair, perhaps there were just more people trying to get into Detroit at this time. But, if that was the case might it have occurred to TSA management to open more than the three of the five available inspection lines?
I suppose that after the 45 minute wait I was not the most cordially countenanced citizen looking to re-enter his country. Watching the TSA officers in command of my line ordering the occupants of the two cars ahead of me out of their vehicles while they poked around things also left me apprehensive. Foregoing any formalities of courtesy, my inquisitor immediately deadpanned his lines, "place of birth, citizenship etc." With confidence, but an accordingly similar deadpan demeanor I answered as required.
Things turned decidedly south when we got to, "purpose of visit to Canada?" "To open a bank account," did not seem to be the right answer from someone who had flown in earlier in the day from North Carolina and my inquisitor made that very clear. He queried me on how much money and "other monetary instruments" I was carrying with me and wanted to make sure I was aware the legal limit, without filing a declaration form, was $10,000. I told him I was certainly aware of that rule.
When I told him I had opened the account with only a $100 CAN deposit he demanded to see the receipt. Probably because I too handily produced it for him, he came back with, "And why do you want a bank account in Canada?" I half thought about, "None of your damn business" as a perfectly valid response, but upon better judgment opted for, "Well, I might eventually be buying some land in Canada." This was indeed the truth. I had simply left off the second part of the sentence which was, "...in the event the US becomes a police state."
That's as far as we got at the check booth. I was obviously too dangerous for a general walk around my car. I got slapped with an orange sticker on my windshield hand written with the ominous notation, "opened bank account." I was told to drive off to the side towards the special inspection area and await further instructions. I was confident that I was clean on all counts -- and thankful that I had avoided the temptation to buy some of the Cuban cigars readily available in the shops of Windsor. However, I have to admit there is always a certain amount of adrenaline that gets into the system when you are approached by three uniformed men wearing latex gloves and sidearms.
Again with no friendly salutation they ordered me out of the car and told me to wait in the adjoining office while they inspected my vehicle. Entering the small brightly lit 50's motif government office, I approached the one man at the counter and with the cheeriness of having left the latex gloved inspectors behind me asked if there was a restroom I could use. The stone faced reply was, "When they are done with your car inspection." After the long wait getting this far, I really did have to go to the bathroom. For a distraction, I went for the only option left to me, reading the big TSA sign posted on the plain white wall explaining all my rights and how they are to be respected at all times in the utmost courteous and professional manner by all TSA staff.
Thankfully, with only two small bags in my otherwise empty car the inspection took less than 10 minutes. The TSA people in the latex gloves walked back into the office. One of them, barely recognizing me, and probably more directed to the other TSA officer behind the counter, said, "OK." With that, the counter officer looked up at me and motioned with a nod of his head toward one of the two unmarked doors on the opposite wall, "The men's room is on the right." Not feeling obliged to thank him for his grudgingly offered information, I simply headed in the direction of relief without further comment.
It wasn't until I reached my destination hours later that I learned how I close I may have come to a more intimate and involved encounter with the latex gloved TSA officers. Opening the trunk of my car to get out my single bag of luggage, it was impossible not to notice that the inspectors had intentionally left it open. And, rather than having all my clothes on top as I had carefully packed them, they had gone through my files of papers underneath and had decided upon one particularly suspicious item of contraband. They left it prominently displayed on top of my rifled luggage. It is important to note that my files were full of subversive John Birch Society literature and even a full page flyer advertising Aaron Russo's new film From Freedom to Fascism. Check out though what they deemed to be a significant enough discovery to leave out for possible further investigation.
Bad as the road the Adam Bombs! issue of the Neely Chronicle could have led me down, I am happy to report that I was able to fly home a few days later from the home of the Sears Tower without being tripped up by the no fly list at Midway Airport. Neely Chronicle publisher, Richard Moore though may want to leave a little extra time in his schedule should it involve having to clear a TSA check point.
(All for naught? My dual bi-national bank account standing may end up soon being erased by the SPP process. More on this tomorrow.)11:32:49 PM comment