Leaving Canada

After delivering my keynote and a special session for an elite group of Canadian speakers last night, I caught a limo from the hotel this morning after a 5:30 am fire alarm trumped my later wake-up call. The limo arrived early and the driver was very polite.

At the airport, I headed for Global Entry. There was a long wait in the regular system, with maybe 10 US immigration officers amidst booths for three times that number, and long, Disneyland lines. I bypassed everything, and then ran into Mr. Ugly American. An officer at the machine, instead of saying the machine was out of order, and he’s sorry, interrogated me as to whether I had Nexus, and why didn’t I know what that was. I said, “Can I use this machine or not?!” and he said, “Go see an officer!” I asked him if he were always that unpleasant. I find this intolerable as an American. It’s humiliating to employ this kind of attitude.

After 15 minutes in the line and halfway through, I saw that the machine was lighted again and Mr. Personality had left. I ducked under the ropes and did my thing in one minute. Then at the exit point, a woman was working slowly to collect forms but a man next to her was doing nothing. “Are you open?” I asked politely. “I’m Canadian police,” he said, “and all I can do is arrest you!”

“That’s the best deal I’ve had since I entered immigration,” I explained, “what can you do for me?” He offered cozy accommodations with three meals and a sound roof, with plenty of security. We both laughed and I was finally at the woman taking forms. He told her not to let me return, and she stopped her mechanical actions and asked him soberly, “Why?”

Security was fast, but I was asked for my boarding pass—I am not making this up—six times before I was finally on my way to the gates. Some of these people were all of 10 yards apart.

Finally, I entered the Priority Club, an Amex benefit. The hostess checked me in and I asked how far my gate was from the club. Incredibly, she replied, “I’m sorry, sir, I’m not familiar with the airport.” She was actually hired and trained and never asked to familiarize herself with the airport, while dealing with passengers! And coming to work every day, she didn’t feel the need to do so!

Never feel that there is no work for consultants and performance improvement. Most immigration officers are fine people, and anyone can have a bad day. But I sensed this guy was in the midst of a bad life. Security is vital, but paranoia is dangerous. (“The price of eternal vigilance is indifference”—Marshall McLuhan, ironically, a Canadian.)

And if you don’t know what’s outside your door, you might as well be a hermit. They don’t have to commute.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.


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