Friday, September 27, 2013

The Crime? Traveling Solo

One sidenote to my Toronto trip --

This trip was planned last minute.  I ended up driving across the Canadian border and taking a train to Toronto.

I drove into the Canadian customs booth early in the morning.  We went through the usual questions about citizenship, carrying any weapons, etc.  Then "Where are you going?  "Toronto," I respond.


"I just wanted to get out of town for the holiday weekend."

"Why Toronto?"  he asks.

"I dunno.  Coin flip.  I just wanted to go someplace and it's a cool city?"

"Going by yourself?"  he asks.  "Yes"

"Going to Toronto by yourself,"  he repeats it slowly THREE times as he stares at me.

"Ok, go."  and he waives he on.

A few days later I return at midnight and now have to pass through US customs.

I pull up to the US customs booth.  A female officer takes my passport and asks the standard questions.  Her face is pockmarked and she's not very attractive.  Nothing feminine about this 40-something woman.

"Why were you in Toronto?" she asks.

"Just wanted to get out of town for the holiday," I answer.

"Who were you with?"  Do you know anyone there?"

"No one and no," I answer.

"You went to Toronto by yourself?"  she stares at me incredulously.

"Yes,"  I answer.

"How much money are you carrying? she asks.

"Thirty dollars"

"You went to Toronto by yourself?," she says again as she stares at me.

"Ok see that officer over there in the inspection area?  Drive over to him," and she gives me a yellow ticket.

I comply.  I turn off my car and prepare to get out.  "Stop!" he yells.  "Keys on the dashboard.  Leave your cell phone in the car.  Don't take anything out of the car."  He directs me to a building across the parking area.

I enter this room where there are about ten other people.  I quickly notice I'm the only one who doesn't speak Arabic.  They tell me to sign in and wait until they call me.  People are being summoned into interview rooms.

After twenty minutes they call me to the counter.  The officer is typing on a computer terminal.  He seems to already know a lot about me.  "Do I still live on this street?"  "What is my job?"  Again, "what was I doing in Toronto?  "Where did I stay?  "What did I do all day?"  (obviously I left out some details here)  "What did I buy?"  "Did I contact anyone there?"

Finally he calls on the radio to ask the status of the search of my car.  It's ok.  "Ok, you can go," he says, barely looking up from his computer screen.

Holy shit!  I just wanted to get out of town and had no one to go with.  This is a crime?   



  1. Lesson learned: when crossing the border, have a mundane purpose, even if you have to make one up.

  2. That's really strange, there's obviously a subtext. Because gay men have experienced such prejudice over the years I'm tempted to wonder if they figure: single male headed to Toronto with no specific plans = gay guy looking for hustlers or at least other men for sex. But Canada has seemed so rational recently, the current government notwithstanding.

  3. Bizarre -- my first thought, given how gay men have been treated over the years, was that there was some homophobic profiling involved: single man going to Toronto with no specific plans or people he knows there = gay man looking for hustlers and sex. Canadian government has recently been very conservative, but Canadians themselves are very enlightened. I don't understand the treatment you got.