Monday, October 20, 2008

NEXUS Program

I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.  During the long drive home I changed my mind.  I decided that the Canadian and American Customs and Border Patrol personnel implementing the NEXUS program deserve a lot of credit for what they have accomplished.
The NEXUS program is a "trusted traveler" program for Canadian and US Citizens.  It's purpose is the expedite the border crossing for "trusted travelers."  I read the background material and decided that since I would be flipping back and forth across the border next summer in Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario, not to mention the St. Lawrence Seaway it would be a good credential to acquire.  WIth a NEXUS card I will, according to the web material, be able to use a marine telephone reporting system when I cross the border.
I read the NEXUS material on the web site (link is above) and decided to apply.  Since they warn you that it can take several weeks before you are approved I considered this a reasonable winter project.  What I failed to realize is that I was going to have to drive to one of the border crossings to be interviewed in person.  I received my conditional approval and then had to go to Detroit for the interview.  Thanks to my friend Dan instead of driving my 14 mpg Avalanche I was able to drive his late model 33 mpg BMW to the interview.  What a pleasure to drive a real road car again after all these years!
I arrived at the Ambassador Bridge two hours early for the interview.  I was directed to a double wide construction style trailer where I was greeted by a CBP agent.  Each time a truck would come off the bridge the entire trailer would shake.  Not to mention that they are working on the bridge and there was a constant din of pile drivers in the background.
I was concerned that I would have to wait for my interview slot but they took me right away.  The first step of the process was to watch a video that had all the production values of a 1980's home movie - a person sitting at a desk, the background a cinder block wall, and Agent reading from a script.  That step completed the next step was an in person interview followed by a photograph and getting my fingerprints taken.  The photograph was taken by a web camera held up by the agent, the background a number of 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper taped to the wall!  Then the agent and I struggled with trying to get the computer to take my fingerprints.  My hands were very dry so the reader did not want to get a good image.  The agent provided some hand cream (I doubt issued by CBT) and eventually we got it done.  My credential was produced on the spot and I was reminded that it might take 48 hours for all the computer databases to get updated.
I left thinking is this the best the richest country in the world can do?  As I drove home my mood changed, I realized that both the Canadian and US CBP agents were doing a great job with the resources they had available.  We will see in the future if having a NEXUS card makes a difference - it is "harmonized" for land, air and sea travel.  However it turns out I will remember that the can do spirit is alive and well in the US.

American Exceptionalism

Peter Schramm, liked to tell the story of his family's escape from Hungary in the aftermath of its failed revolution against Russian Com...