Customs and Airport Security

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.” ― Hellen Keller


Last week I was in Florida with the girls – my daughter, mom and sister.  We spent a couple of days in the Keys and a couple of days at Disney.  It was quite the trip!  Very interesting, fun, relaxing yet busy.

The adventure began on the way to the airport when my sister and I were discussing what food we were bringing onboard. (NB: my sister has certain dietary needs, and my daughter was just recovering from a bought of runs).  When my sister said she had fruit, I thought, “Oh Boy…” so I mentioned that she needs to be careful because from my experience, security might take it away from her.

In my previous life when I worked for a healthcare technology company I travelled to the US quite a bit.  I travelled to all kinds of places, some exciting, and some were, well….I’ll say interesting.  One thing I found quite amazing every time was the security measures which you have to pass through in order to travel via airplane, especially if you’re entering into US territory.  This time the formula was different from the past.  The purpose of my trip was for leisure, I wasn’t alone, and I was travelling as a single parent.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.

So when the four of us arrived at the US Customs desk at Toronto Airport, we split into two groups (have to be grouped by address).  My daughter and I arrived at the customs desk and I handed over our passports to the Customs Officer, along with a folded letter.  The Officer points to the letter and says “What’s that?” I responded “That’s a Statutory of Declaration letter.” He gives me an annoyed look and says “What’s it for?” and I’m confused at this point, because I thought he surely should know.  I wasn’t sure what to say.  I didn’t want to get yanked away and put into some room and be questioned because I pissed him off and said the wrong thing.  So I responded “It’s the permission from my daughter’s father allowing her to travel with me.” He then rolls his eyes and says “I don’t need to see it.” WHAT??!!! (think Scooby Doo voice)

The two of us exit the customs desk and head to the search area.  As we’re walking I see my sister and mom being whisked away into another room.  I’m thinking, “Great, now what’s going on? We haven’t even left the city!” My sister mentioned that she had fruit, and therefore was privileged to have her belongings searched.  She told security that she packed apples and bananas.  They took away her apples because they didn’t have any stickers on them because they didn’t know where they were from (trees maybe?) I know, I know…I’m being a smart ass.  They meant location.  The bananas didn’t have stickers but she was allowed to keep them.  I don’t get it.  But what I find funny is the fact that they asked if she had any citrus fruit with her.  I wonder why? If she did, would it be taken from her as well?  Wouldn’t the citrus fruit likely being going back home?  We were going to Florida after all.

Fast forward 4 days to our return home…..

On the way back home, I now had two bags with me – my backpack and a beach bag.  At the wedding in the Keys I had won the centerpiece.  Normally I would have left it behind, but it was so beautiful and I just wanted to bring it home.  I won a gorgeous lantern with three beautiful miniature glass vases.  While in line at security check, it hit me – they may take this all away!  I regretted not packing them into the luggage.  I thought “Oh well, let’s hope for the best!”  So onto the belt I placed my two bags along with my daughter’s back pack.  To my amazement, the lantern and vases came out ok, but my daughter’s backpack didn’t make it.  I didn’t notice that they took aside her Disney Princess pink backpack until I saw her eyes tear up and her lower lip tremble.  When they pulled out a tiny tube I remembered that I forgot to take out her bubbles!

The flight was unadventurous and we were at Canadian Customs in no time.  Again, I present our passports again, but this time to the Canadian Customs Office.  I was asked where I went, for what purpose etc.  But then I was asked who this little girl was to me.  I said “She’s my daughter” and then I was asked for the Statutory of Declaration letter.  Really? I didn’t even think to present it to them, as I was coming back INTO the country.  I don’t get it.

So what’s the point of my ramblings?  Here it is.  I don’t get this ‘security’ system.  We’re put through all of this torture to keep up “safe” but how safe are we really?

  • We aren’t allowed to bring fruit into the US unless there is a sticker on it, but that depends on the type of fruit – for example citrus.  The last time I checked, we don’t grow citrus fruit here, because we don’t have the climate for it.
  • I get questioned about my daughter upon my return to the country, not while leaving.  I could have easily travelled anywhere with her, without her father’s permission, if I wanted to.
  • They were going to take away my daughter’s bubbles because it was in liquid form and over the maximum allowance, yet I was allowed to board the airplane with a glass lantern and glass vases, which I could have broken into pieces and used as weapons.

Am I supposed to feel safe and have faith in the security process?  Not so sure.  Am I worried?  Not really.  They’re doing their job the best they can.  If someone wants to do something bad, they’ll find a way.  We just have to be aware of what’s going on around us, which I do anyway.  But one thing for sure, I was highly amused with it all.  I found it quite humorous!



One thought on “Customs and Airport Security

  1. Ever since 911 the system has drastically changed and security measure are just nuts and so time consuming. You and I both know it’s for the best but sometimes I have to agree with you, how secure are we really.


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