A strange week indeed. I left home yesterday morning bound for Toronto and then on to Atlanta where I am doing some work with Public Radio Capital and Native Public Media, looking at how Native community radio stations make an impact. Yesterday I made it as far as Toronto, but a flight delay meant I was cutting my connection close, and I still had to apply for a work visa at US Customs and Border Protection. I arrived in secondary screening at 10 to eight, with an 830 flight pending. There was no one else in the room, save a distraught Hispanic woman who was being denied entry and a tired Chinese man, waiting for his visa too. I have applied for four of these TN visas and it’s not an onerous process. All three officers however remarked on my short time, and I patiently explained to them that my flight was delayed, I was doing my best and could they try and get me on the 830 flight to Atlanta.
But alas, US Customs and Border Patrol is not about customer service. It is very much about creating an environment that seeks to put you off your game, get you to tip your hand, spill the beans. Officers stay out of rapport, breaking eye contact should you try to engage, and in secondary screening, they move very slowly, laughing and talking loudly about clearly non-related stuff. It seems designed to put you on the defensive. They’re cool…what’s bugging you? So alas at 830, after sitting alone in the customs hall with five officers trading stories, an officer finally called me forward, asked a few questions and gave me my visa. By then the plane had gone and I was bound for a night in Toronto. There was no apology to be had. But I don’t complain – that is their job: to screen anyone entering the United States and ensure that no immigration laws are broken. That is how things are with Homeland Security. For me it’s just good practice in patience.
As for Air Canada, they were good enough to recognize their part in the timing delay and they nicely put me up at the Sheraton right at the airport. So props to them.
Luckily my connection was non-essential, and so I rebooked for this morning, and shot down here on a quick CRJ flight, arriving at noon, which was too early for this Shearton, so, stranded again, I set out around downtown Atlanta searching for life. It was long before I discovered that life, even on this lovely cool spring day, was all underground, in the Peachtree Center mall, where long lines of office workers were queued up at fast food outlets for lunch. I found some decent pad thai (Atlanta is a very multicultural city, despite your prejudices about what Georgia must be like) and settled into read the Globe and Mail. In the Life section I read this quote by the poet James Richardson, which sums up my week:
The man who sticks to his plan will become what he used to want to be.
Sweet. And so with that, I headed back out into the downtown core and shot some photos of the buildings, and especially the Westin Hotel which lost a whole lot of windows in a tornado last week. Tomorrow I run a two hour world cafe on measuring the impact of Native community radio stations, then I hop an afternoon flight to Toronto and on to Vancouver so that I can arise bright and early Thursday for the first day of two with the Department of Fisheries and Ocieans. I finish that job on Friday at noon, debrief, hit a 5pm flight to Nanaimo and head up to Parksville to run a weekend retreat for the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Service until Sunday at noon. Then I’m home, and staying there for about two weeks. That will be the longest stint at home this year, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to play with my kids and tend our new garden.
If I didn’t have flow, and if I didn’t see travel and work like this as one long extended meditation, I don’t know how I’d survive it.