I’m sitting in Boston at the moment, after a full day of meetings, and reflecting on a disturbing incident this morning.Â Â Here’s what happened.Â
Howard and I grabbed a 6:25 AM flight from Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in MontrealÂ down to Boston.Â We camped at the Rodeway Inn (a desparate place, if I ever saw one) last night, across the street from the airport, got up at 4:15 AM, and made it to the airport at about 5:15 AM.
Everything was going great until we realized in the security line (after having passed through US customs and immigration) that I had taken the wrong bag from the car.Â We have two identical bags.Â One was packed with the computers for our presentations and demos in Boston, and the other was packed with Howard’s dirty laundry.Â I had Howard’s clothes… notÂ the computers.
Security would not let me leave the zone as I was now technically on American soil; an artifact of the relationships that Canadian airports have with US airlines.Â They informed me I would have to clear the security line, find an Air Canada agent in the secure zone, and have that agent escort me to Canadian customs and immigration, whereupon I could “re-enter” Canada, collect my bag, and then re-clear US customs and immigration,Â and security again.
After a 15 minute search for an Air Canada agent in Dorval’s secure zone I finally found someone who buzzed me through the security door to Canadian customs and immigration.Â Because she was also boarding passengers she was unable to escort me, so I entered the immigration zone alone.Â In fact, she didn’t even check my boarding pass to see if my story checked out.Â She radioed her superiors that I was on my way, and buzzed me into the immigration zone.Â
When I reached passport control a few minutes later, there wereÂ probably 25 stations, and not an agent in sight.
The janitor, sweeping the floor, advised me to take the stairs down, and speak with customs.Â I walked unchallenged throughÂ passport control, and downstairs to the customs area.Â It was a ghost town as well.Â
I continued to walk unchallenged.Â I walked through the baggage claim. I walked through the customs area.Â I walked through the baggage inspection area.Â I walked past the empty desk of the guard who collects your declaration form.Â Finally, I walked out into the arrivals area, where I met a security guard and explained what I had done and asked if she would please call customs for me. Ten minutes later, a border agent appeared, checked my passport and escorted me out.
So, let’s review.Â The Canadian border at Montreal was completely devoid of officials.Â I walked right on through and could likely have walked past the security guard, and out of the airport.Â What if I had been really trying to enter the country illegally?Â Would I have been tracked down from security camera images?Â Could I have left the airport?