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Just a generational difference or something sinister?

I am 69 years old. Today I drove across the river/international border from my home in Detroit, Michigan, USA, to the Ontario Tourism center in downtown Windsor, Ontario, Canada, as I have been doing occasionally for almost 30 years to get vacation ideas for later this summer. This time, the Canadian immigration officer (seemingly in his 30's) questioned me at some length about why I was making the trip instead of using my computer to visit the web site. He didn't seem to comprehend that I want maps and brochures that I can hold in my hands; I want to talk to people who can suggest places that I haven't thought of and tell me specific information about individual beaches, B&Bs, hotels, etc.; and I want personal suggestions for places to grab a quick lunch in Windsor and buy picture postcards (I'm a Postcrossing member). I don't think he thought I was a terrorist or other kind of bad guy. He just seemed completely flummoxed that I'd make a journey in my car to do something that he'd do with his computer or smart phone. Just to make sure that I'm not crazy, I spoke to the US immigration officer on my way home (also seeming to be in his 30's) and some neighbors who are in their late 20's or early 30's, and they agreed with me. What is this world coming to?

Posted by
16802 posts

Its OK to get cranky when you get old. You probably remember a time when people went out to dinner and talked to each other instead of pulling out their smart phones and taking a picture of the food on their plate, posting it on Facebook, then waiting to see how many "likes" they get.

Posted by
2472 posts

My brother-in-law (we are in our early 60's) doesn't understand why my husband and i travel so much. He tells me he can see the same musuems, Churches, streets, landmarks right on his computer without getting on an airplane and for free. I can't even answer him without going on a tangent. I know he isn't in his 30's, but he worked with computers before his retirement. Same mentality. What can i say.

Posted by
2893 posts

What would be sinister about this? He thinks it's weird that you are driving to do something you could do online. Young people always seem to think that they know better than older people. Today, my daughter lectured me because I don't use Control V to copy and paste because it wastes a few seconds compared to the way I do it. Yes, the immigration officer is flummoxed by your process. It's because many people under 35 sometimes don't understand the value of face to face contact. The value of a follow up question that you can ask in person or the difference that tone can make in an exchange are lost on them because their communications are via text.

Posted by
7193 posts

It's a new generation not for the better in some aspects.
My neighbor who is about that age buys fast food dinner online almost every day.
No wonder we have an obesity epidemic and shopping malls are dying and Amazon bought Whole Foods

Posted by
8405 posts

We're in DC visiting our son who thinks we're too old to drive his car in the DC traffic. He wants to protect either us or his car. Zoot--he learned at 16 on our five-speed VW Passat, and he was in the car seat as I used to circle around the Arc de Triomphe without killing him. Geez, these young ones.

Agnes--sorry I couldn't get to the DC meeting.

Posted by
8889 posts

From a European perspective, why I want to go somewhere is nobody's business. Travel is a basic human right.
Within the EU, I have the right as a EU Citizen to travel to any other EU country, and stay for as long (or as short) as I like. I regularly cross borders with nobody asking me "why". And, as long as Theresa May does not give it away as part of Brexit, I will continue to do so.

This has its routes in History, for most of the 20th Century in much of Europe free crossing of borders was anything but easy. It is now seen as a major achievement. For an example of how important it is see here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/22/world/europe/ukraine-visa-free-travel.html

Personally, I would have told this person MYOB (Mind your own business). Governments (and bureaucrats) exist as the servants of citizens, not vice-versa.

Posted by
8293 posts

Chris, If it happens that you want to enter either Canada or the USA and you tell the Border Agent " mind your own business", be sure to report on how that worked for you.

Posted by
16802 posts

Even Swiss immigration officers ask me why I am visiting Switzerland. I tell 'em I'm going skiing and that answer seems to satisfy them. Telling them I'm coming for the cheap beer might raise some eyebrows.

Posted by
367 posts

The last time I went to Europe was to Switzerland. I don't think the person who checked my passport even talked to me. I was half asleep so I might have forgotten the conversation. Also leaving no questions. But when I left France, I was asked a ton of questions even before I checked in for my flight.

The only question I got asked when I came back was how long were you gone and did you have a good time. Then got told welcome home!

I also remember watching a news program several years ago where incoming freshmen at MIT had to take a manners class to learn how to carry on a conversation during a meal, and how to interact with colleagues and potential employers. Stuff I learned at the dinner table and from my parents.

Posted by
3621 posts

Marc,

You asked "What is this world coming to?" Unfortunately, it appears that with each new generation we are moving more and more to a totally impersonal society. I recently observed a couple on what appeared to be a date in a coffee shop. Both of them had out their smart phones and were texting. I couldn't help but wonder if they were texting each other.

The elimination of personal interaction is, in my opinion, a trend that will contribute greatly to less and less civil behavior. Thankfully I'll be dead and gone before things devolve to the point that humans are unable to speak.

Posted by
6486 posts

TC, you are right. There may come a time when humans no longer have vocal cords but they will have humongous thumbs. I, like you, am glad that I won't be around to see it.

Posted by
4535 posts

I also miss the old days, you know, back when courting meant sitting with a girl on the front porch just out of earshot of her parents. Then that dag-gummit telephone got invented and kids just wanted to talk on that mechanical contraption all the time. You can't even see each others eyes on those things. And don't get me started about boys taking girls out on dates in one of those automobiles...

Posted by
362 posts

Marc - Thanks to your post, I looked up Postcrossing. How cool is that???? I used to have pen pals who wrote real letters and sometimes sent real postcards. I miss that. I love sending postcards and none of my family seems thrilled to receive them. So this is really exciting, thanks!

I think it's a generational thing. I tell people I'm traveling to...(fill in the blank)...and they ask me why I would want to GO there. (My standard answer is because I haven't been there yet.)

But seriously, I love have brochures and tour books to handle and thumb through and highlight. I also do a lot of research on my computer, but to me the two aspects work together and not as a one or the other type thing.

Posted by
1117 posts

Within the EU, I have the right as a EU Citizen to travel to any other
EU country, and stay for as long (or as short) as I like.

@ Chris: I take it you are not a Swiss citizen then? ;-)

That said, your post should show us (and everyone) what a valuable achievement freedom of travel is, and by no means something we can take for granted.

Travel is a basic human right.

Considering how many people drown in the Mediterranean each year rather than the EU letting them cross their borders, that sure is a broad statement. Not meaning to get into any political discussions here about refugee issues, just saying that there are clear limits to who is granted this right and who is not.

Personally, I would have told this person MYOB (Mind your own
business).

Not a good idea. Immigration officers tend to have very little sense of humor when it comes to replies like that.

.

@Marc: I am quite few years younger than you, and yes, there are many things I do online. But there are some things that I will not want to do online but will pick up a phone to do. And there are some things that I will not do by phone either but will want to do face to face, communicating with a real live person.

So, no, you're not crazy. You're just making choices. This officer is making other choices, and he can't understand yours.

Posted by
3933 posts

Yeah - the border guards at the Canada/US border are not ones to tell 'MYOB' to, same as you wouldn't give a cop any guff. That'll get you sent back home most likely. Especially lately, things are much more strict than they used to be. Luckily, we haven't had any major issues and they are usually friendly/businesslike, but not overly hostile, but I imagine if you show up with an attitude...

As for brochures and whatnot - there are times when I'd rather have a physical catalogue or whatnot, in hand. Example - I like buying Pampered Chef (home based business) items once in awhile. I found a lady at a craft show with PC stuff. Asked for a catty. Instead, she gave me her card and told me to check out the stuff online. Well, I never did because I like to take my time browsing, mark the pages of things I want, look thru it multiple times - I'm not going to do that on my computer.

On the flip side, travel wise I do a lot of my searching online...but I don't have the ease of crossing a nearby border.

Posted by
3491 posts

It is the border guard's job to determine why you are wanting to enter a country and if that is an acceptable reason. Simply having a valid passport and saying I just want to drive around may not be enough of a reason these days. Maybe you were lucky in the past that you got guards that were less interested.

Nothing gives you the right to enter any other country. Your passport is simply a polite request from the US government to other governments in the world to allow you in if those governments want to. You can be refused entry to any country for as simple a reason as the border guard is having a bad day.

There are many videos you can find on the internet of what happened to people who told the border guards to mind their own business. Most did not turn out well for the person wanting to cross the border.

Posted by
3491 posts

Chris F,

Moving from one country within the EU to another also in the EU is more like crossing state borders within the US or provincial borders in Canada. There is no one checking anything and you are free to travel as much as you want. And that is a great thing! This is not the same thing as you going outside of Schengen or the EU borders. Try entering the US or Canada, you will have to talk with a border guard. Anything other than answering the questions asked immediately and clearly will get you sent for further questioning and searching at best and at worst put right back on a plane returning you to where you came from.

In the perfect world, anyone would be able to visit anywhere anytime without any questions or blocks. Right now we are no where near a perfect world. Unfortunately there are too many people out there who want nothing more than to do damage in what they believe is their right and duty. Until that changes, I doubt we will see any borders open to unrestricted travel that are not already so. Most likely, there will be more restrictions in the near future.

Posted by
379 posts

I have driven from New England to Montreal numerous times. Last fall, I crossed the border at a small town for a more scenic drive. Three 30 something Canadian immigration officers detained me for over an hour, questioning me why I picked this route. During that time, there were only half a dozen cars going through. My explanation that it was a foliage photography tour only led them to browsing through every image on my cameras' memory cards. I didn't think that they were wowed by my shots.

What is this world coming to?

For the times they are a-changin'

Posted by
4637 posts

Chris F, I also think as some others do that Switzerland is not a member of EU although it's in Schengen area. So being a citizen of Switzerland (if that's the case) does not make you citizen of EU. I remember times when you were stopped on every European country borders, asked for passport, event.visa and many other questions. At that time crossing Canadian - US border was just a breeze. Many times stopped just a moment, asked one question and quite often they were not even interested in my ID. Now you can zoom (at least at this time) across most of European borders and Canadian - US border now resembles long time gone borders between a communist and free world. Well, progress is unstoppable. Marc, it was probably just a generational difference. But cannot rule out something more sinister, either. In that case my educated guess would be that the young immigration officer thought that you were a potential refugee from Trumps empire to gain certain social net advantages which Canada has.

Posted by
16883 posts

Marc, a week ago, I drove 2.5 hours to a suburb of Vancouver to indulge in the extensive selection of Chinese restaurants they have there. I've done the same a couple of times before, a couple of years apart. Last time, I did get the third degree about why I couldn't just eat at the Chinese restaurants in Edmonds. (I already do.) This time, I went prepared with a hotel reservation and restaurant map, but got invited inside for an extra half hour of explaining my whole life story. So a single person taking a weekend drive with only a couple of days planning and not telling anyone is also "highly unusual." They were looking for drugs, and said so, but the contents of my car, wallet, and phone passed inspection. They probably take extra time waiting for actual drug runners to get nervous. I was about to ask for a chair and a cup of tea.

Posted by
3491 posts

The current Canadian border situation of intensively questioning US citizens trying to enter Canada for a short visit may be in response to similar crackdowns on Canadians wanting to enter the US.

Recently, a couple were detained and placed in handcuffs by US Border agents because they couldn't say exactly which stores they were going to visit at a discount mall they mentioned they were wanting to shop at. Another car full of men were turned back at the border because they wanted to go to McDonalds in the US for all day breakfast. The US Border guard said there were plenty of similar restaurants in Canada.

Posted by
4637 posts

Mark and Laura, those are almost horror stories confirming my perception that US - Canadian border is slowly (or perhaps not so slowly) resembling the former border between communist countries and free countries of Europe. Sad.

Posted by
228 posts

Oh for those simpler times.
The discussion of crossing the US/Can border reminded me of a time in the late 60's/early 70's when I was stationed in Halifax.
My wife's parents lived in Watertown outside Boston and we would often drive there to spend holidays with them. Once during the Christmas season her parents had mailed our Christmas presents to us but at the last minute we decided to drive there instead and spend Christmas in the Boston area.

So we loaded all of our unopened Christmas presents in the car and off we went to the nearest border point at Calais ME. When
the border agent asked what we were bringing into the US, we said Christmas presents and what are they? Well we don't know because we haven't opened them. OK, bring them in to the office, which we did.

He motioned us to go take a seat where we couldn't see what was in the packages. Can you imagine it today, he ever so patiently unwrapped each gift, inspected it and rewrapped each and every one and then wished us a Merry Christmas and sent us on our way.

Posted by
8293 posts

Steve, it was a "kinder gentler time".

Posted by
6486 posts

"Steve, it was a "kinder gentler time"."

And before x-ray machines at all the border crossings. :-)

Posted by
8293 posts

Keith, exactly what I was thinking... "Old people have always complained about the younger generations ". You hit the nail on the head.

My 27 yo son has tons of friends and talks and communicates with all of them as well, or better, than my generation. They use iPhones and FB to make plans for getting together, which they do constantly. They hang out and talk and have fun wherever they meet up. I'm on my iPhone way more than he is.

He's also a world traveler and has been to more places / countries than I have.

I can't stand it when old people complain about "the younger generation". Such negative nonsense.

I admire old people that keep up with the times. My Dad got his first computer in 1999 when he was 87. He learned to do all kinds of things on it (burn CDs for example) and stayed in touch with family and friends through email, read his hometown newspaper in another state every morning, and very much enjoyed being able to stay connected to West Point through their website as he was a West Point graduate. He was a computer pro until he died at 97. I admired his ability to keep up with the times.

Posted by
337 posts

Brooklyn, NY
06/25/17 03:15 PM
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My brother-in-law (we are in our early 60's) doesn't understand why my husband and i travel so much. He tells me he can see the same musuems, Churches, streets, landmarks right on his computer without getting on an airplane and for free. I can't even answer him without going on a tangent. I know he isn't in his 30's, but he worked with computers before his retirement. Same mentality. What can i say.

I totally understand what you're saying. I will add this. I was able to see Stonehenge on Google Maps street view I believe and went about a half mile down the road each way and toured the entire thing and I can honestly say after reading reviews I have no desire to go there.

I realize that's not exactly what we're saying here but I just think there is something to the fact that even without traveling you can still see the world today. Which is great for those who choose not to. I've toured the Roman Colosseum in the Eiffel Tower and hundreds of other destinations around the world via drone it definitely helps with researching before we go see something.

There's a great website called travelbydrone.com It's awesome for that kind of thing

Posted by
7124 posts

I would hope, and expect, age has nothing to do with it. I imagine the officer was conducting 'due diligence' as instructed from higher up, given the current political climate. A certain amount of 'tit for tat' may apply, following reported cases of detention at US entry points (with excessive aggressive questioning) after the new administration took office. This Australian author, for example, was given a rough time at LAX.
http://abc.net.au/news/2017-02-25/mem-fox-detained-at-los-angeles-airport-by-us-officials/8303366?pfmredir=sm