Border Patrol Saga

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I've been having a bad few days. Work just isn't as fun as it used to be. I find myself throwing coworkers under the bus left and right; something I never used to do. Yesterday I sent an email to a third party that sounded a bit snarky (unintentional, but still). These are all classic signs of the burned out developer.

I've been on an exercise kick recently. Just a few days ago I ran a Half Marathon distance for fun. Today, I went ice skating with some coworkers (they talked me into buying a season pass). I stepped out onto the ice, made a few passes, and then realized everyone had switched directions, and so I attempted to do a 180 and go with the flow.

Well, my attempt seemed to fail. I ended up slamming my hand into the railing which surrounds the court. Apparently they intend only gloved-hockey-players to use this rink, because my pinky came into contact with a sharp corner of exposed aluminum, which runs around the entire perimeter of the rink. My finger instantly began bleeding all over the place.

Sliced Finger
Sliced Finger

Come to find out, the cut was very deep, slicing not only through flesh but also through fingernail. Judging from the depth of the cut and my amateur knowledge of human anatomy, I'd wager my finger stopped moving once the aluminum came into contact with bone.

I wrapped it up in a bandaid, and finished the open-skate session. But something magical happened once I sliced my finger open; I stopped giving a fuck.

About what you ask? Everything, I suppose. I knew at that point I really wasn't going to be getting much done at work for the next day or two, so I sent out an email that I was taking the rest of the day off and probably the next as well. I talked with my friends/coworkers who were skating with me, and told them that I needed to just get away.

And here I am, blogging away at a coffee shop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

I've never done this before. I've never taken a road trip just for the hell of it. Truth be told, I was afrad of travel for many years. Especially when it came to traveling alone. This year, however, has involved a lot of progress for me. I took a trip out to California to visit family. I took a trip (flew alone!) to the TechCrunch Disrupt New York conference for work. I even flew to Ireland for a week with a friend (another coworker) just to see the country.

This time, I literally made my decision, and two hours later was on the road.

Unfortunately, this situation is not something the Border Patrol is used to hearing.

Being male, mid twenties, driving alone, to a part of another country you've never been to before, while not knowing anybody in said country, looks really suspicious to the border patrol. The conversation went down a lot like you'd expect.

“What are you here for?

Oh, just a mini vacation.

When's the last time you were here?

About a year ago, just to Windsor though.

Why did you come here then?

Well, my ex had friends here, and we were visiting.

Are you visiting them today?


Where do you work?

I work at a networking company in Michigan.

Are you here for work?


I'm going to place this sheet of paper under your windshield wiper. Please pull ahead to customs.”

At this point, it becomes obvious that I'm going to be here a while. I pull up, get out of my vehicle, and wait for someone to come assist me. A border patrol worker comes and begins going through my car, making sure to check every nook and cranny of the center console, my laptop bag, my suitcase and dopp bags, you name it.

“What are you here for, sir?

Just visiting.

Whose car is this?


What is the license plate number?


Are you here visiting anyone?


Is this your laptop?


Are you here for work?


Why are you here, sir?

Just on a mini vacation.

I see you only have one nights worth of clothing. Why are you here for only one night?

Well, I just wanted to get away.

Why did you choose Canada?

Well, Toronto is a big town that isn't too far, and I reallly didn't like Chicago.

Can you give me your phone, sir?

Uhh… Sure.

Can you unlock your phone sir?”

It's at this point I give the man a look of incredulousness.

“If you do not unlock your phone sir, I will have our IT guys unlock it for me.”

I punch in the code to the phone. He disappears around the back of the car, and him and another guy begin going through my phone. The sort of things they checked included call history, text messages, facebook chat history, and going through my photos. I knew this because the apps were now higher up in the run history, and were scrolled back a surprising distance. The last screen opened when I got the phone back was half way through my Ireland vacation photos (a couple thousand in).

“Sir, can you please help me out here. I'm just trying to put your story together. You came here, on a whim, just to spend a day, in a place you don't know, with nobody you know, in the middle of the week when you should be at work?”

I did my best to explain. I doubt they believed a word of my story, but seeing as there was in fact no drugs in my car, and I kept telling them that I wasn't here to work, and they didn't have anything to pin on me, they finally checked off a box on the sheet of paper and allowed me to enter a nearby building.

In here, the woman behind the counter was a little bit nicer. She asked me the same sets of questions I had heard several times again. This time though, she asked me something I thought was pretty funny.

“Are you here to gamble online?

Uhh, no.

Are you sure?

I'm positive.

Everybody gambles online!

It's just not for me.

Well, what is this laptop for then? Are you here to work? If so, we have forms you can fill out.

No, I just like to have my laptop.”

I'm not sure if that was an attempt at entrapment or what. I have no idea why someone would want to drive 5 hours into another country, just to whip out their laptop and gamble online. Surely, there are better ways to gamble, such as going to a casino, or playing cards in a basement with friends. Of course, this isn't even mentioning the concept of using a server in another country as a proxy to get around the regional restrictions that online gambling websites undoubtedly have. (There's no way I would have said that though; to these people, knowledge is an admittance of guilt).

Thomas Hunter II Avatar

Thomas has contributed to dozens of enterprise Node.js services and has worked for a company dedicated to securing Node.js. He has spoken at several conferences on Node.js and JavaScript and is an O'Reilly published author.