Montreal, Canada

6 April 2012

Dear Readers,

There can be a lot of bureaucracy traveling between countries. Going to and from Canada is pretty straightforward, though there was a form to fill out on the plane (see my airplane neighbor, a Swedish-born teenager, in action in this photo) and I stood in line at immigration, during what must have been the airport’s equivalent of rush hour, for an hour and a half on the way in. On the way out — American customs on the return trip is on Canadian soil — they’ve got it down pat. Between the airport helpers efficiently scanning boarding passes and luggage tags every step of the way, and my 8 am arrival at the airport this morning, all I had to do was fill out a form, walk, and send my stuff through the security checkpoint x-ray machine. They had the old metal detector machines, too, which take no time to do their work. Super fast experience in all.

I was surprised to see a pilot ahead of me in the security line with a giant bottle of water; the guards didn’t even blink and he took it to the gate with him. No one on the flight crew had to remove their liquids and gels, either. I guess I could see how there would be double standards, but I had not seen it blatantly before. I was also surprised, when I got to the passport official (American), that he was not familiar with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. I don’t expect anyone to have heard of most orchestras, but this is a big orchestra with a large local following, and it is in the same city as the airport. Don’t you normally hear about organizations that are a recurring part of the city’s cultural life, even if you don’t go to see them? I can imagine how that might happen, though. Maybe he was feigning ignorance to catch me out, or perhaps he just moved here. Maybe the language barrier kept him from noticing the OSM’s presence before. Maybe now he’ll recognize it, the next time he sees a banner or an ad for a concert. He could be a new audience member soon, you never know.

I was surprised one more time when the same passport official pointed to his computer screen and asked, “Are these your bags?” There, at the end of his finger, were two very clear pictures of my luggage! Amazing! I’d never seen that before. It was impressive.