05 May, 2008

Where Others Are Not Welcomed

The one thing I like about Canada is that it is truly egalitarian. The one thing I hate about Canada is that it is truly egalitarian. Canada is the only country I know of that herds all people entering the country into one collective cattle line at customs.

In all European countries, you have EU lines and “Others” lines. The EU lines whizz along. You practically get whiplash watching the citizens of EU countries peripheral efforts to clear customs. The speedy movement of the line indicates a wide bridge to assist them in their continued journey. The “Others” line up, by contrast, is stop-and-go at best. Most often, it just stops.

In Grenada and other countries I frequently visit, there is a special line up for “citizens and residences”. These booths are manned by custom officers who either know everyone and wave them through with a wink and a wave; or, custom officers nearing retirement who couldn’t be bothered and so they wave the people through with a dismissive flick of their fingers. The “Others” booths are manned by the young-and-uncertain or the old-and-resentful. Their working lives consists of making these initial moments in these countries of choice (often for restful and relaxing vacations) as uncomfortable as possible.

Last Thursday, I arrived at Toronto airport alongside quite a few other flights. Joy of joy. The dimension’s of the custom’s hall is beyond belief. One universal cattle line larger than any I’ve seen before. Standing in the crowd, itching forward at an irritatingly slow rate, I daydreamed that one of the customs officers entered a new message in the LED sign over his booth. Instead of lighted number, it said, “Non-Others”.

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