Okay, the bus gets to the truck crossing. We file out, get in line, same as usual.
The Homeland Security agent/guard/officer/whatever I get looks like a cliche stereotype. Navy blue uniform, short, squat guy, thick neck, looks like he sweats a lot, bulldog physique, super-fine military buzz cut, looks like he drew his hairline with a ruler.
He looks at my passport and says, where are you going?
I know you arenâ€™t supposed to say, â€œIâ€™m travelling on business,â€ because then they start asking about whether youâ€™re taking money or goods into the US. I also decide that being evasive about my trip would look bad. I decide honesty is the best policy, but hope he doesnâ€™t pry too far. â€œIâ€™m presenting at a conference in Maryland.â€
I hesitate a bit here. Then say, â€œConsensual master-slave relationships.â€ Being vague would only make him more suspicious.
He seemed completely baffled by the concept, as if he had never heard of anything remotely like it before.
I explained a bit. â€œitâ€™s all consensual, all role-play.:
He still looked at me like I was talking about putting live frogs in blenders and hitting frappe.
He asked me about my profession, and where I lived, which I told him. He asked to see some proof I had been invited, and I showed him the email with my plane ticket information.
He still looked confused. â€œIs this a sexual thing at all?â€
I said, truthfully, â€œYes, some of the time.â€
I took a book out of my pack and showed him a picture of Hannah Cullwick and gave him a 10-second presentation on her relationship with Arthur Munby.
He looked and said, â€œAnd she enjoyed this?â€
â€œYes, she did.â€
He said, â€œI have a freelance journalist travelling to present on master-slave relationships,â€ as if this was something completely unprecedented.
This is when I started to sweat a bit. I was imagining that heâ€™d take me into some little room, thereâ€™d be another officer, thereâ€™d be latex gloves and CSIS and theyâ€™d beat me with phone books or somethingâ€¦
Finally, he put up his hands and said, â€œI just need to know you arenâ€™t doing anything illegal.â€
I told him, â€œNo, thereâ€™s no touching. I just give a lecture.â€
At long last, he turned away.
Just to make absolutely sure, I asked, â€œAm I free to go?â€
He said, â€œYes.â€ He looked like he was thinking, There are weird, messed-up people in the world, but if theyâ€™re not doing anything illegal, I canâ€™t do anything about it.
I ran my bags through the scanner and got back in line. THEN I got the shakes.
When Iâ€™m in a scary situation, I stay quite calm externally while it is happening. It doesnâ€™t hit me until afterwards.
By comparison, my encounter with Canadian border authorities was over in less than 30 seconds.