There seems little to watch for entertainment on TV these days. At least, there is little to watch on basic cable that has any appeal to me. I have been occasionally taken in by a program called, “Border Security.” It must be a Canadian production because it only features border protection in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some of the stories of travellers are mildly bizarre but I just watched one that was wildly bizarre.

A man stopped at Vancouver Airport customs was trying to enter Canada from Beijing, but his nationality was Peruvian. Nothing special there, that could happen easily enough. But what was his reason for travelling to Canada? He needed to cash a cheque. Elaboration (by the man) was that he’d been given a cheque in Peru but was told that it could only be cashed in Beijing. He flew to Beijing, but was told there, that it could be cashed pretty much anywhere except China. So, the man said, he flew to someplace “close by,” namely Vancouver!

I haven’t seen the end of the story, and I may not, but the beginning would have rung alarm bells even in the brains of the customs sniffer dogs.

Speaking of sniffer dogs, one sad group of Canadian travellers, dad and two sons, took a wrong turn and had to unintentionally cross the border into the U.S. only to immediately turn around and head back into Canada. They are granted no special leave for their simple traveller’s mistake. They undergo the same de-briefing that all people entering Canada face. The short version is that one of the sons was found to have a small quantity of marijuana that looked like about half a cigar in size. Though deluded pot-heads strongly believe that law enforcement customarily turns a blind eye to such small quantities of weed, this young man was handcuffed and arrested on the spot. He was not allowed to continue his journey with dad and brother.

It has never crossed my mind to engage in any kind of border buffoonery. I even worry about perfectly legal stuff like taking my large amount of daily prescription drugs to Europe and back. But customs officers are looking for stories that don’t make sense and for nervous people. I must say that having travelled to France, Spain and Germany recently, the most intense customs grilling I ever experience is at the Canada/U.S. border (pretty much equally, in both directions). In my 2014 travels in Europe, I was only asked one question as we entered Germany and that question was, “Returning to Canada?”

The most fascinating border story I’ve ever heard was not from the TV program, it was from a friend. A group of four men from Saskatchewan decided to go on a ski weekend in Montana. One of them had to make the journey separately from the rest because he couldn’t get away from work as early as they could. He said he’d join them at the resort at a certain time. He arrived late and told the group that his trip had been delayed at some remote, low-traffic border crossing along the Canadian/U.S. border. The story was that after long delays parked in the examination spot, and consultations with two other customs officers, the customs man asked if the skier had been to the doctor lately. The skier had to think about it because he had no recollection of having been to the doctor and no doubt he also had to ponder why they might be asking such a question. Finally, he said that he had been to a lab for medical tests about four days prior. A relieved customs officer said that that would explain why they were picking up trace amounts of radiation coming from his car! Remote, low-use, border-crossing or not, seemingly, there are no secrets at the border.

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