You’re pretty sure you’re not a terrorist… but you don’t know for sure
By Rebecca Peterson, Humour Editor
You can’t decide what is more terrifying: The act of strapping yourself into a metal tube that plans to hurl itself into the air, defying logic, physics, and God’s plan for humanity (which definitely did not include flight if our general mass and lack of wings are anything to go by), or the multiple tests and checks you must undergo prior to strapping yourself into the metal tube. Either way, your lizard brain is pissing itself, and you are nervous. You are very, very nervous.
You tell yourself you have nothing to hide as you make your way through the long snaking line of tourists and businessmen, up to sophisticated scanners that will not only judge your ability to strip down to your t-shirt and pants with speed and efficiency, but likely your character as a human being as well. You ask yourself, “Why do I need to reassure myself that I have nothing to hide? That sounds like something that someone with something to hide would think.” You start to suspect yourself. You start to think, maybe you should hand yourself over to security and be done with it.
“What was your intended crime?” they will ask.
“I don’t know,” you’ll reply, “but I bet it was going to be awful.”
Someone nudges you with their carry-on, and you proceed over to the ramp with the tower of bins beside it. You race the eight-year-old sliding in next to you as you relieve yourself of your boots, jacket, cell-phone, and last shred of confidence as you realize the socks you’re wearing are days old and mismatched. It might not be enough to have you stopped at the border, but it’s certainly enough to wither your self-esteem as you step through the metal detector.
Which promptly goes off.
The American security border officials watch, unamused, as you search your hair, your pockets, your soul for anything metal that might have caused the metal detector to tattle on you. In the left ass-cheek pocket of your jeans, you find a single loonie.
It’s one of the most Canadian embarrassments you’ve ever experienced. The border officials roll their eyes as they wave you through to collect your things.
The next round of screening asks questions of you that you aren’t prepared to answer. Has anyone other than yourself touched your suitcase, or put anything in it? You don’t think so, but you know that magicians and masters of sleight of hand exist, so you don’t know for sure. Are you bringing plants or animal products across the border? God, maybe. Maybe you’re a drug-runner and you don’t even know it. Maybe a maple leaf got stuck to the bottom of your boot and you’re about to destroy the fragile ecology of another country. There’s just no way to know for sure.
Eventually, you make it to the last guardian of national security, and a small sign tells you that this bored-looking, minimum-wage worker represents the very heart and soul of America. You might as well be speaking to the living embodiment of the Statue of Liberty.
Mr. Liberty barely glances at you as he asks, “What is your purpose in America?”
You freeze. It’s a wedding—but are you allowed to say that? Is a wedding a good enough reason to be in the country?
What comes out is, “A wedding… I think?”
The man stares at you. You stare back at him. Your eyes beg for mercy.
“What do you do for a living?” he asks, moving on from your first unsatisfactory answer.
“I’m a student,” you answer. “And I work for a newspaper.”
“Editor of the Humour Section.”
“And are you funny?”
You blink. “Beg pardon?”
His expression doesn’t change, his voice stern and sincere, as he repeats slowly: “Are. You. Funny?”
The existential dread that this question inspires threatens to overwhelm you. You’re seriously considering calling your Assistant Editor and Editor-in-Chief to vouch for your proficiency in the humour genre.
Instead, you gesture to yourself, and ask, “Does my face count?”
He lets you through. It’s a blow to your self-esteem for sure, but far better than the alternative.
The sweet relief of the moment is dampened slightly by the realization that you’re going to have to repeat the whole process coming back over the border, but for now, you are safe. For now, you are free to board the metal tube, to tread the high, slightly-trespassed sanctity of space, to put out your hand, and touch the face of God.
(Assuming there is a God, of course, but that’s a piece of Gothic for another time.)