Once in a while, the trunk of your car fills up with enough crap that it’s time to clean it all out. I usually grab a big garbage bag and dig in. Whatever is garbage goes straight into the bag. Whatever shouldn’t remain in the trunk finds its way to the floor of the garage, and eventually finds its way to where it needs to go. And the rest remains in the trunk, where it belongs. And if there wasn’t enough garbage to justify throwing the bag away, the bag itself also winds up in the trunk… for further use in the future.
Many years ago, I drove to Seattle. Then I came home, and the border guard, bored I suppose – or maybe I looked guiltier than usual – made me get out and pop the trunk.
“You can’t bring American garbage into Canada!”
Fair point… but I explained…
“It’s not American garbage… it’s Canadian. That bag has been in my trunk all weekend.”
“You took your garbage for a ride in the U.S.?”
I suppose I did. Not on purpose, but whatever. Who cares.
Well, he cared. Fine, confiscate it.
“I don’t want your garbage!”
Fine, I’ll throw it away. Where’s the nearest…
“You can’t throw it away here!”
What an odd stalemate. Eventually, he let me go. With my garbage.
I was reminded of this episode because something else (which I’ll get to shortly) reminded me of the opposite… the time we were returning from Seattle after a long weekend. When you do that, be prepared to wait… the border waits are brutal on those Monday nights. But this time, traffic just kept flowing… how odd. Tons of volume, but we never stopped… just slowly crawled toward the border… where all the lanes were open, and there were border guards just waving people through. Go, don’t stop, welcome home, have a nice evening. This was pre-9/11, but still. Wow.
On one hand, I was happy to not have to wait. On the other hand, two things bothered me. One was… well, you know how there are people who keep every receipt, meticulously add up what they spent, who spent it, what it was, how much it was, both in US and Canadian dollars? I’m one of those people. I was ready to answer any question the agent would ask. All that work for nothing. Annoying, but not as important as point two… which was, what a joke. What a mockery of all the times so many people have been stopped for no reason, been given the third degree for no reason, searched for nothing. And now, all the cigarettes and booze and full gas tanks and maybe drugs and guns all flowing into Canada… because I guess they were too understaffed that day, or too tired of dealing with the monotony… or were just realizing none of them would get to go home till 6am with so much traffic to handle. Sure, some stuff will get through. Whatever.
The rules that those people enforce exist for a reason, and when they decide to ignore them, as briefly as it might be, they compromise the integrity of the entire thing. What is the point? What was ever the point?
On that note, we have a rule in place at the moment. If you’re flying into Canada, you have to prove you’re C19-free. Take a test and show the test results at check-in… or you’re not getting on the plane. Very straightforward, and it applies to everyone.
Except, for some reason, not everyone. Like, not Haiti. Why not Haiti? Since the start of the year, flights from everywhere else have had this requirement. And the answer is simple: Haiti, nobody’s example of a first-world country, doesn’t have their shit together when it comes to testing. So rather than just say “No”, we, being the polite Canadians we are, say “Don’t worry about it.”
As a result, two flights from Haiti that arrived in Montreal (Jan 10th and 13th) were so infested with C19 that the post-flight alert that went out to the passengers was not the typical “rows 6 to 10 may have had an exposure”; it was “all rows”. Basically, if you were on either of those planes, you came in contact with someone who was found to be infected.
I had little sympathy for that guy from Kelowna who got stuck in Lake Tahoe, having decided his ski trip was “essential”. He got stuck when the regulations kicked in, and had no way to get a quick test… so he was stuck for three or five days. Cry me a river.
But… had he decided to go waterskiing in Haiti instead, no worries.
The issue isn’t so much with the haphazard rules that seem to appear and rule our lives; borders have always been hit and miss. When you head into the U.S. (and/or come back home), the experience will be greatly defined by what border agent you get, and what sort of day they’re having. That’s just an accepted part of it. Sometimes they’re harsh with the rules. Sometimes they couldn’t care less.
But in the middle of a raging pandemic… whether it’s a self-entitled skier from the interior, or a bunch of tourists in London… and/or pretty-much everyone else… what is the point if it doesn’t apply to everyone?
“Hey, teacher, I didn’t feel like studying for the test today. I mean, I realize everyone else is prepared. I’m just not. Is it ok if I just don’t write it?”
“Oh, of course. I’ll just give you a pass”.
That’s not how it works… we don’t live in a “everyone is equal but some people are more equal than others” society. At least, we’re not supposed to… but stuff like this causes a lot grumbling; a lot of well-justified grumbling. If politicians are going to make rules, make them so that they apply to everyone… and enforce them. Or don’t make them at all.
And/or have a very eloquent staffer ready to write some poetic excuses to the families of people who died of C19 as a direct result of those flights.
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