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diaryland: sirilyan.diaryland.com: entry for 2000-11-11 (00:25:37)
In which our plucky young hero has something to declare.

And now, the time I nearly got arrested for trying to reenter my own country.

It was August of 1995 and I'd just spent three days in beautiful Austin, Texas for a friend's wedding. A beautiful affair, conducted in balmy 110-degree heat, or as we'd say in Canadian and Celsius, "Oh Christ I think I'm about to die is it a problem when you stop sweating where's my air conditioning where is my goddamn air conditioning?"

One great thing while I was down there is that I got to visit the offices of Steve Jackson Games, and meet Mr. Steve Jackson Games himself, Steve Jackson. (He's shorter than you think he is, but isn't everybody?) SJ Games publishes a really neat card game called Illuminati, a game of conspiracy where your secret society tries to take over the world, using whatever shadowy powers it can bring to bear on the post office or Hollywood or Lyndon LaRouche. (Someday if you ask nicely I'll explain how thanks to this game I got to have a personal conversation with Jesus.)

But that was then and this is now, and now I'm waiting in line at Customs at the John F. Diefenbaker International Airport, and by "International" I mean that there are flights to both Canada and the United States, as long as "the United States" means "the Northwest hub in Minneapolis". This is not a big deal for me even if it's only my second international flight. How difficult can it be to get past Customs? You show them that none of your baggage contains bombs or the Ebola virus, you attest that you wouldn't even dare joke about hand grenades or hijacking, and you show them a receipt or something from a Starbucks on Guadelupe.

Ha ha ha ha ha. How silly. I'm dealing with Canada Customs, and until I'm finished dealing with Canada Customs, I am in no-man's-land. I am technically still on American soil in the middle of Saskatchewan, hundreds of miles away from the U.S. border and even then all that's on the other side is Montana.

(No offense to Montana, which I'm sure is the most genuine of the places that isn't even a real state anyway, and surely beats the heck out of Delaware.)

I am talking with the Customs official, who is rooting through my nice blue hockey bag, poking at my mentionables and unmentionables alike, when he comes across a deck of Illuminati cards. He looks at the eye-in-the-pyramid on the box, almost as if he expects it to blink back, and then he opens the box and begins leafing through the cards. The Secret Masters of Fandom, Al Gore, the Phone Company all stare back at him, and then he comes across the card for the South American Nazis.

He waves over another Customs guy to look at this card. They begin whispering to each other, and I fidget a bit. Finally, one of them looks at me and says, "You do know it's a crime to bring hate literature into Canada, right?"

Hate literature? Hate literature!?

So, smoothly, calmly, and collectedly, I show off the wit that's made me the toast of the town and gotten me mentioned on the same page as such famous commentators as Tim Carvell and Merrill Markoe:

"Uh."

This does not impress them.

"Uh," I continue. "It's a game. It's a game of parody. About conspiracies. See, it says here. These are the rules. To the game."

They continue to fail to move me right along because this is a satirical and comical game that the whole family can enjoy providing the whole family is really, really into Robert Anton Wilson.

"It's satire," I helpfully add.

This is the point when they find another of the decks I bought in Austin. A deck of the German-language edition of the game. Yessir, just when I'm facing their suspicion that I'm importing hate literature with Nazi cards, what happens but they find stuff written in German? (Ironically enough, I hadn't read my horoscope that day. But even if I had, I still didn't think it'd say "You will cause a bilingual international incident in an airport." Which is to me a totally convincing reason to not believe that bunk.)

So this has provoked their curiosity enough that now there's three of them looking through my stuff! They're looking through my clothes too! What, do they think I might have hate literature hidden in my socks? The lead guy, still poking at a pair of my boxer shorts, he now turns to me and says, "Wait right here." You know, as opposed to jumping over the counter and making a run for it with half my worldly possessions left in the airport.

I watch while the three of these people chat among themselves, three people whose salaries come out of my pocket, or at least would if I'd made enough money that year to pay taxes. I'm wondering what the hell they'll do if they decide that I am actually trying to import hate literature. Will they arrest me? Will they deport me? Will I be sent back to Texas with a sign on me that says "Don't mess with Saskatchewan"? I don't even like chicken-fried steak!

I'm really getting the fear on here, but finally, they break their little leader's summit and one of them, the lead guy, grudgingly and reluctantly admits as how I might be right about these things being a game, and I should go ahead and repack my stuff and go on through. (Damn that constitution! Damn that free speech! We would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling politicians and their Trudeau.)

Okay, this is sort of anticlimactic, but cripes, at this point I'll take it. I'll take anything. (Well, except a strip search.) And as I repacked my bag, I suddenly realized one thing that showed how incredibly lucky I really was: Thank God I traded away Hitler's brain.

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