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.