Entering the United States is a huge hassle. This is even worse when one is simply in transit through the US. This makes going to and coming back from my yearly mission to Ecuador more of an ordeal than it should.
I have never quite understood the antipathy US Border guards have towards Canadians. OK we are one of two countries to win a war against the US (North Vietnam is the other) and we did burn Washington to the ground in that war but hey we are reaching the 200th anniversary of that. Further why are customs agents in such a bad mood. They get to wear uniforms, work indoors, do no lifting, have a pension plan and occasionally get to arrest bad guys.
Coming back to Canada via the US means either going thru Miami or through the ominously named George Bush International Airport in Houston. This last trip we arrived in Houston to the large Customs room to find a huge line-up for those non US Citizens of us. No problem, this time I had convinced our travel agent that we would need a long connecting time in Houston and we had 6 hours to get through this hurdle. After about an hour or so we were directed into a short line of about 10 people. We had obviously gotten into the wrong line. The lines around us were moving relatively quickly. I looked up at the counter and saw the crabiest most prototypical US Customs agent waiting for us.
Our mission is a Christian mission. A few years ago a minister who comes with us suggested we wear crosses and so we bought a large number of small wooden crosses with us which we wore and gave to patients, relatives etc. I roomed with this minister the first year so got into the habit of wearing the cross. I figure if it makes people feel good why fight it. This is why I was wearing a wooden cross under my shirt on this day in George Bush International Airport.
As I approached Mr Hardass I flipped the wooden cross out from under my shirt. Mr. Hardass grabbed my wife's and my passports. After a while he looked up, and saw the cross. "What were you doing in Ecuador," he asked. "A medical mission", I replied, fingering my cross. Mr. Hardass smiled, "Have a nice trip home sir".