Adventures In Homeland Security

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This blog entry about the events of Thursday, March 03, 2005 was originally posted on March 15, 2005.

DAY 502 (Part 1; 501 days since last U.S.A. entry):  Although the category for this Blog entry is “U.S.A.”, our story begins in Toronto, Canada, which is okay I guess, considering it was there that I had to clear U.S. Immigration and Customs formalities before my “domestic” connecting flight into the States.  As much as Canadians hate to hear it, Toronto is pretty much an American city anyway (just with funny accents); in fact, it’s the ranked the second busiest American port of entry (after Miami) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

I had just about an hour to switch terminals, get my bags, and clear U.S. entry formalities, a process I had long-dreaded — as a matter of fact, I intentionally went from Indonesia to Singapore to Canada first, to decrease my chances of being a suspected terrorist flying directly from Muslim Jakarta with a beat-up U.S. passport that had already been suspected of being fake in Argentina and Egypt.  As everyone knows, airport security has been tight ever since Nine Eleven, and even the night before when I boarded the Vancouver-to-Toronto flight, I was detained at the security check.

“He has a clamp in his bag,” one Canadian security officer said to another.

“Okay, show me the clamp,” I was instructed, at the table next to the metal detector gate where my electronics were soon swabbed for explosive material.  I did as I was told and revealed the harmless “iClamp” that squeezed the side of my iBook together so the screen wouldn’t dim due to a faulty logic board.

“You can’t bring this.  It’s a tool,” the officer said.

“But I need it to use my computer,” I argued.  “Here, I’ll show you.”

He wouldn’t let me demonstrate.  “You have to send it or check it in.”

“Oh, but I was going to work on my computer on the plane.”

The other officer came over.  “You can check it in with another bag.  Or you can put it in storage.”

“Can I?”

“Yeah, you can store it.  When are you coming back?”

“I’m not.  I’m an American going back home.”

“It’s a dollar a day here.”

“Huh?  Oh, I thought you meant storage on the plane.”

“No.”

What the hell is going on? I thought.  National security is threatened by a 50-cent clamp I bought in India?  There aren’t any sharp edges!  It’s not like I have a bomb; it’s not like I want to blow up the plane.  Wait, can I even say “bomb” at an airport?  Sure I can, I’m just thinking this in italics.  Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb ba bomb!  Wait, are they going to arrest me now?

All the commotion was holding up the line and the supervisor came over to see what the problem was.  “[What’s the problem here?]”

“He has this.”

“Just take it on board,” the supervisor said under her breath.  “But don’t bring it out on the plane.”

“Okay.”


“KEEPING AMERICA’S DOORS OPEN AND OUR NATION SECURE,” was the slogan for the US-VISIT program on a sign posted by the U.S. immigration counters in Toronto.  I got on line with my bags by my feet, passport and boarding pass in hand, and waited behind the line until it was my turn.  Also with me was my immigration form with very limited space on “Countries visited.”  I just put the last four.

“How long have you been away?” the officer asked.

“Sixteen months.  Well, sixteen and a half.”

“What have you been doing?”

“Just backpacking around… and I’m finally home.  Well, Canada.”

He was a good-natured fellow and went through standard procedure of swiping my passport through the reader and pushing a bunch of buttons on a computer.  Looks like it’s gonna be easier than I thought.  Being American with an American passport does have its advantages sometimes.  Alright, U.S.A.!  U.S.A.!  U.S—wait a minute, why’s he putting my passport in a folder? 

“Take this and go through the door on the right.”

D’oh!

The U.S. interrogation office was a sterile and boring looking place — think hospital meets DMV without the long lines — and it was there I was led to a counter manned by one Officer Mektar (sp?) who continued to question me on my supposed return to the States.

“How long have you been away?” he asked.

“Sixteen and a half months.”

“Doing what?”

“Just backpacking around.”

“Where did you go?”

“[Actually, more than what’s written there; there was no room, so I just put the last four.  Hmmm…  Okay, the short version:  four months in South America, four months in Africa, a month in Europe, then I took the train from Moscow to Beijing, then China for a month, Japan, then Nepal, India, Thailand, and sort around southeast Asia for a while.]”

“Must be nice.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“What company do you work for?”

“Uh, I was laid off,” I told him.  The officer started getting a suspicious look in his eye.

“Then what company were you working for?”

“This company called ACTV.”

“And what did that stand for?”

“Uh, it didn’t stand for anything.”  Shady, but the truth.

“And how old are you?”

“Thirty.  Yeah, I know, I look young.”

“And I assume you’re not married?”

“No.”

“And what are you going to do when get back?”

“Uh, look for work.”  Good answer, good answer.

Another federal employee came over looking quite beat from being overworked with security issues.  She came over to see if she could help out.  “Smile, it’s Friday,” I told her to brighten up their day and soften my character.

“Uh, we work weekends.  It could be Tuesday for us.”

Okay then.  Just then, there was another guy beside me, waiting his turn.

“You take that one, this one will be a while,” Officer Mektar told the other.

A while? I thought.  “How long is this going to take?”

“[Just a moment.  The system keeps shutting me out.]”

“Uh, my flight’s at 7:15.”  (It was 6:55.)

Officer Mektar looked at his watch and hesitated a bit before reluctantly saying, “You’ll make it.”  The system kicked in and I was registered — probably flagged as a person to keep an eye on in the country — and then was led for a quick X-ray of my bags.  “Okay, you’re free to go.”

I rushed over to the bag check-in and then to find my gate, but still had to go through the carry-on security.  They stopped me, not for my the iClamp this time (since I wisely stored it back in my big bag), but to check out my computer and such, which I showed them in haste.  “Am I gonna make my flight?”

“We have nothing to do with that.”

I packed up and ran down the hall before realizing it was the wrong one.  It didn’t matter because when I finally found my gate, it was already too late.

“Your plane just left,” said the woman at the gate counter.  “Where were you?  We were waiting for you.”  They had paged me on the P.A. system, but I don’t think there were any speakers in the U.S. interrogation room. 

“I was delayed by the U.S. government.”

She saw my passport.  “But you’re American.

“I know!”

“Must be the hat,” her co-worker said.  I was wearing my wool-knit hat from Peru. 

“You have to take the next flight.” 

“When is that?”

“Boarding at 10:45.”

“And arrives…?”

“One o’clock.”

“What about my bag?”

“[If you didn’t make that flight, they wouldn’t have been able to fly with it — it’s the law — so don’t worry, it’s still here.  If you’re on the next flight, it will be re-routed on that one.]”

“Okay.”

And so, the plans I had that morning back in the States were shot since I had no choice but to spend most of the morning waiting around in Toronto (picture above), stranded at the airport like in The Terminal, just not as long.  I spent the time drinking coffee to keep myself awake from the lack of good sleep on the red-eye the night before, until it was time to board my final flight of The Global Trip 2004, to my next, but not final, destination.  Unfortunately, as I found out later, my bag did not make that same flight in the connection delay fiasco, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  I guess it was sort of ironic; after sixteen months around the world, the first and only time my baggage was ever lost was at the very end, back in America.






Next entry: Homestretch, U.S.A.

Previous entry: Preparing For Re-Entry




Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Adventures In Homeland Security”

  • hey erik,

    welcome back, although i know you’ve been back for a week now, but i guess this post makes it official.

    im one of the lurker and i thought i finally leave a comment. i stumbled upon your site when i googled pinatubo, and i had been glued ever since.

    like everyone else, im envious of your accomplishments. if given a chance - and money - i would probably follow your trail. but that’s least likely to happen, so the closest i could travel the world is through your blog.

    onelove,
    ibalik

    Posted by ibalik  on  03/15  at  03:39 AM


  • Almost first!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  10:24 AM


  • will smith is technically from west philly (we all know the fresh prince song)...but as you saw to the losing eagles in the superbowl intro, he’s all philly…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  12:13 PM


  • This week has been great - a new entry every day. I was so not looking forward to the end…...............but what am I going to do next week?  I called 1-800-get-a-life but there was no answer!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  12:22 PM


  • Oh, I’m so sad.  The reality of the end of the blog is setting in :( 
    Who else is going to start reading from the beginning again?

    Posted by Liz  on  03/15  at  12:42 PM


  • Erik:

    Congrats on your return home…and with a good ol’ fasion American heart attack meal to make it official.  Every time I make it back home for a visit (San Diego) my first stop is either IN-N-OUT Burger (ohh so good) or one of the local Mexican taco shops for a bomb of a Carne Asada burrito (gluttony at its best). 

    I can totally appreciate sureal feeling of being back home and that little has in your extended absence.  Although, I bet that as time passes, the full impact of how your experiences have changed you will be felt.  I myself have lived outside the states for more than 5 years now, and although I feel pretty much the same as I did when I left, I realize that the experience has really left a profound impresion on me - a much more optimistic worldview and feeling of empowerment that you define your own limitations in life.

    Once again, welcome back home and I’m definately looking forward to the day 503 photos…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  12:43 PM


  • FINAL CALL FOR ENTRIES!  Please send me your DAY 503 picts so they can be integrated into the gallery…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  01:00 PM


  • James: That’s deep.

    Soilder Down! I can’t believe we lost another one… ahhh Markyt, we barely knew ya! Congratulations dude.

    ERIK: You spent friday morning at Pearson?! We could have gone for breakfast!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  01:13 PM


  • TDOT - thanks…wedding presents are welcome….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  01:14 PM


  • Before I clicked on the photo of the American flag -  I really thought it was going to be a photo of a McDonalds!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  02:06 PM


  • Liz - I think I might do that, start from the beginning again! 

    That philly steak sandwich looks SO yummy!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  02:09 PM


  • congrats, markyt.

    Posted by Alyson  on  03/15  at  02:32 PM


  • Hey Erik!
    welcome back dude-sorry you could’nt make it to cali & I could’nt make it for day 503- hopefuly we’ll catch up in person soon (still up for newzealand???)- keep in touch

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  04:30 PM


  • YEs!
    503 Pics..I have to send you pics so that they are incorporated…...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  04:34 PM


  • James - first thing I did when I returned from SE Asia was hit El Zarape in SD for a carne asada burrito - I’ve had Mexican food for days now!! And then Fatburger… both are two things I can’t live without!!

    Erik - glad to see that you were affected by the cold!! I thought perhaps it was only me!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  05:06 PM


  • I too thought the cheesie pic was going to be a McDonalds!!!  sad….really really sad!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  06:50 PM


  • Wow, so you’re back now!! Funny how you say “it was almost as if the past sixteen and a half months never happened” as that is how I feel after I come back from vacation too.

    Immigration & customs are a bunch of bastards aren’t they??? I remember being detained re-entering Canada from the US (pre 9/11) and I just about threw a fit.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  08:21 PM


  • You know, if you went to New York to see the Statue of Liberty you could have just taken a ferry and walked around the statue. And as I was typing this comment, I wondered what a URL was. What is it?(to: bloggers, please do not laugh at me. I am not dumb!)  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  09:54 PM


  • So where are all the pictures of the US churches?  Thats one thing I notice about traveling around to other countries.  Adventurers spend an exhorbinant amount of time visiting churches.  Most adventurers I have met don’t have the main stream vision of religion and going to church every sunday, but when out and about its like churches become magnets.

    Anyways, welcome back.  You deserve a vacation.  You should grab a flight and head down to the Dominican Republic and visit some churches.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  10:31 PM


  • I’m a lurker too..have enjoyed the blog much. I’m getting (mentally) ready for a similar undertaking, so I gotta ask…

    How much did it all cost? smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/15  at  10:54 PM


  • Erik, as much as I’m really anticipating to see the Day 503 pics, I’m saddened that it’s coming to an end as all good things do.  You truly are an inspiration to us all. 

    I have really enjoyed reading your blogs!  Especially about the Phillipines.  It brought back alot of memories and I could really relate to the filipino mindset.  It was both hilarious and emotional at the same time to read those RP blogs. 

    I basically wanted to post to say thanks for taking the time to blog and share your Global Trip!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  12:26 AM


  • MICHAEL R. - if you don’t know what something is, just google it…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  12:39 AM


  • Erik, thanks for blogging from on the road! It made my day everytime a read it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  06:57 AM


  • ERIK - I’m pretty sure reading your blog at work last year got me fired. So I owe you one.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  03/16  at  07:11 AM


  • hello Erik me an a mate(australians) stumble upon ur page while looking up the infamous TEENY LITTLE SUPER GUY!!This is also great luck as we’re planning to travel at the end of this year!Just thought we’d let you know your travels look amazing and thanks for the great blog. Auzzies

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  09:17 AM


  • Thanks for all the great reads and the interesting finish Erik!  Welcome home!!  It’s been an amazing journey and it was great following you along! 

    I feel like that after coming home too, like nothing has changed, but you expected it too for some reason.  I thought after a year away that would be different, but guess not too much;)

    Good luck in all your future endevers!!  (yea, i know its spelt wrong)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  11:37 AM


  • Hey, and a ‘big-up’ to Markyt too for all the ‘behind the scenes’ work to make the daily blog possible!  Thanks too man!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  11:40 AM


  • 503!! ...503!!...503!!...503!! ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  06:39 PM


  • PLEASE EXCUSE THE DELAY ON THE DAY 503 ENTRY…  I’m holding off until I get all the pictures first.  ELAINE (“she’s jealous”) refuses to go digital, so I have to wait for her to scan her pictures this weekend…  Hope to have DAY 503 up for the WHMMR!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  07:23 PM


  • ha! yeah, yeah.. i did go digital. waiting for it to arrive!!
    scanned photos on the way..you’ll be jealous when you see how cool the 4-framed pics are from my fancy russian camera.

    smile

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  07:56 PM


  • another, welcome back. i finally had a chance to catch up a little. it’s funny to think that when i would IM you now, you’ll just be in your mom’s basement! (for real this time wink perhaps you’ll still be in the city in may and we can catch up!
    N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  08:14 PM


  • SBR here, I came across your blog while doing research for Carnival.  For the past 2 months I’ve been reading your blog everyday and now I’m finally done.  I just wanted to say I absolutely enjoyed reading “The Global Trip 2004” and your writing is great.  Thanks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/16  at  09:46 PM


  • Arrrrr… on to 503 already me hearty..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/17  at  02:23 AM


  • WHMMR….......I get the Monday morning rush part…........but what about the “W” “H”.........thought I’d better ask before this is all over.  Funny…..I googled it and got sent back here!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/17  at  03:12 AM


  • Janice:  Western Hemisphere.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/17  at  03:45 AM


  • SORRY for the delay… i know everyone is waiting for the 503 entry. i’ll scan my photos soon (sunday) so erik can post it:) 

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/17  at  01:50 PM


  • Thanks Erik, that was really bugging me!  And it was so simple….........

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/17  at  09:22 PM


  • So my questions are: did your luggage ever catch up to you? Are we memorializing your ever-present Yankee ball cap? what about the iClamp? How about a follow-up photo on each injury? I know some of us got to see the hole in your leg on 503, but there were so many who didn’t. You didn’t take any photos of the home-cooked meal your mom made on 503?

    It’s so true… I need a life. Or a new obsession. So, who’s globe trekking next?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/17  at  10:01 PM


  • Christy - with the NCAA tourney on, I’ve been checking the blog less… so that’s my current obsession… but, when it’s over - who the hell knows what I’ll do!! I completely get you…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/18  at  01:01 AM


  • Christy . . . i wish i was globe trekking next. :(
    i want to goooooooooooooooo.

    Posted by Alyson  on  03/18  at  05:53 AM


  • Erik,

    Just wanted to pop in and say a big thank you for the months of enjoyment you provided me, not to mention the inspiritation for my own site (http://www.neverbecomplete.com - shameless plug).  I wish I could have made the party, but hopefully when my RTW trip passes through NY next week I can say hello.

    Best wishes on the future.

    Dan Demole

    Posted by Dan  on  03/19  at  02:34 PM


  • You are making me hungry! Stop talking about Pat’s Philly Cheese Steaks!

    grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/19  at  04:42 PM


  • MARKYT - I found out what a “URL” was!

    Uniform Resource Locator

    I used google!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/20  at  10:48 PM


  • Hey Erik,

    Congrats on being back! Sorry I missed your party I got hit with a stomach virus.

    I am really bored now, it feels like I have been hanging out with you for the past 16 months and now nothing. . .

    If your brother needs a wedding photographer or videographer let me know, I do that on the side now.

    Warren

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/21  at  05:20 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Homestretch, U.S.A.

Previous entry:
Preparing For Re-Entry




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad.
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