So I just got back from a trip to Europe… And it reminded me of an experience I had when I was arrested because I was carrying a kidnapping plan… But it was a completely ludicrous one!
When traveling I often run into insecure machines and processes as well as security professionals who seem daft. All of the above make me feel afraid for my safety but the latter makes me cringe more noticeably. When I was last arrested at the border in October 2009 I was carrying a bunch of unusual items which could be misconstrued as product samples (neatly packages cock bondage kits with cheeky labels I give or sell during my cock bondage workshops/male objectification performances). In addition to a few other handcrafted bondage or BDSM-related articles unrelated to my trip I was also carrying complex textile art in mid-production. The contents of my craft nerd bag boggled my interrogators. What was of most interest to them was my old notebook into which I had been jotting ideas for two to three years. It contained a detailed kidnapping plan to obtain a secret molecule that could be used to fabricate a device shell that would make its content completely invisible to all x-Ray or detection devices. When you consider that law enforcement agencies enjoy having the monopoly on all subversive technology and being the only ones allowed to use excessive force on citizens who regard self-protection as futile, I totally understand their double take! The completed device described in my notebook was to be the first invisible cell phone. And you don’t want to get me started on the specs because that in itself is a whole ‘nother ball of crazy! What the patrol agents did not know is that this was a complex orchestrated BDSM experience tailor-created for someone specific. It was, in essence, an impossible mission that would have required the help of 20 people, a helicopter, a delivery truck, a fake caviar warehouse, tons of fake Russians, a boy scout and a fully functional On Star-like system (not unlike the one featured in War, Inc.) specifically made just for the occasion and complete with friendly Indian operator on the other end! This plan was interesting to ponder because I KNEW that every single piece could work. I also knew who would have fun helping me accomplish each part so I could use it to amuse would-be co-conspirators as well. It was, however, unreasonable to think that all these people would be available at the convenient time to contribute time and resources to a project with a budget of 0$. Human capital is great but it cannot accomplish everything. I hold my notes dear because they are the base of thousands of jokes, plots, art pieces, blog entries, games, practical jokes and so much more…
When I was questioned about my seemingly stalkerish proclivities (I was carrying a kidnapping plan, albeit a ludicrous one…) I simply answered matter-of-factly and without shame so I could fully appreciate if the sexist questions I was being asked were strategic or came from a place of fear and suspicion. For instance, I had a beautiful design featuring a Rock’n’Roll flaming heart and the name Jack. I told the lady agents that this was planned for the back of a jeans jacket I wanted to build for my girlfriend Nancy who performed as a man in a Drag King band we founded together. However in the process she transitioned to be and live as a man and was no longer a Drag King but rather getting recognition as a motherfucking awesome gender fucking performer. I think that it was this answer that clued them into the fact that I am a CREATIVE person… As time moved on one of the two interrogators simply giddily asked me specific questions about my crafts and kept one of my business cards while the other one was off somewhere photocopying my notebook page by page or looking me up on the Interwebz. All these nerdy lists of things to do and stuff to buy at the supermarket are now somewhere in a U.S. Homeland security database bogging down research on actual threats. Here is what I did not have in my bag. I did not have prescription pills (considering Americans are the most medicated people in the world, this should identify me as ‘abnewnormal’ but not being medicated rings as safe on the border patrol’s list). I did not have any piece of clothing or underwear that could be misconstrued as sexy by anyone who lives in the Western hemisphere. You see, many Montreal ladies and gentlemen will find that there is lots of money to be made in New York City, and with the immense crackdown on sex workers in NYC, it seems the border patrol is lending a hand by keeping an eye on migrant sex workers. Two months earlier, on my way to a BDSM conference, I had done a lot of wishful packing and passed the border by car with an enormous amount of rope, strap-ons and various other sex toys. But his time, other than a cute but ineffective flogger upcycled from t-shirts I had brought to show a friend that evening, I did not have anything to add spice in the bedroom in my bag! Still, I was shamed for saying that I was on my way to New York to spend time with a guy I had met on the Internet. In my mind, I am absolutely sure that all of the men who have ever traveled to Canada to spend time with me (however we have met) were given a high five by the border patrol and not shamed for their plans. After sighing and admitting that I was ill-equipped to carry out any nefarious deeds, the border guards let me get back on the bus and I continued my journey to New York City.
There I spent the weekend with a well regarded brilliant psychologist. By brilliant, I mean I have read his stuff, shared it with friends and it is really good! My goal was to help him take it to the next level and this trip was going to be step 1 of that process. Personally getting along with him was rather low on the priority list (i.e. my nerdy packing strategy.) In the process, I also learned that he was one year into an acrimonious divorce, had (understandably) sad children, and, his derelict surroundings indicated to me that he was most likely deeply depressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It wasn’t as pleasant as it was supposed to be and I walked away not really able to explain why politely or nicely. I left New York on Sunday night arriving exactly where I left off on Friday, the office, at 9am Monday! He has threatened to sue me twice, despite the fact that we never got around to drafting a precise co-venture deal, and I remain deftly afraid of him because people in his highly-connected position of authority have pull to simply screw up other people’s plans for the heck of it. I am hoping he will find another hobby naturally and forget I ever existed without me having to explain what I wrote above to someone who is professionally vested in not facing THAT truth.
When I travel, I understand that I put myself in a dangerous position but the dangers have changed. In the world we live in, I am much more afraid of being brutalized or wrongfully arrested and incarcerated by the police or some other kind of security stooge with arresting power that being abducted off the street. In the U.S. it is more likely that I would be killed by a police officer than by a miscreant I know or not. My invisible dressing style has always been a great way to fool everyone into not seeing me and in 9 years, I will be fifty, which means I likely will not have to make much of an effort to be completely invisible. Along my journey I have to trust that the security personnel is able to recognize that I am a creative weirdo hacker artist and not a person who poses a threat to anyone’s physical safety… In most other cases I feel just fine and dandy in the company of strangers in a strange town or in even in a massive BDSM convention.
But I continue to enjoy observing security personnel work. As a hacker and someone who does a bit of Info Sec work, I know that it is the human link that often fails a security system. From overstretched tired (or bad) coders to ‘just this once’ security bypasses, humans are the source of most flaws in security systems we depend on. I worry about the level of intellect of the people who are driven to police, investigative and security work. After all, I live in Montreal, home of police officers who violently tackle frail girls who flash peace signs during a protest or pepper spray people who insult them. That being said, my spouse has been incrusted into the physical field of security work for twenty years so I have someone to voice my fears and concerns with on a regular basis. Outside of the recent scandalous behavior of our local police force during the student protests of the last 6 months, we both witness totally inoffensive people falling under police scrutiny for dubious reasons all the time. We often joke about how long we could both be detained for dubious reasons before the authorities realize we are just pacifist autistic nerds exploring creative activism experiences. Because security personnel is HIGHLY prejudiced against men and tends to not even see women past middle age, I would have zero chance of winning this contest because I would be out first!!! But then again… the fact that security personnel IS highly prejudiced is the problem…
Perhaps, before my next trip to the ever so paranoid United States, I will create a large map of a diabolical and complex technological plan to rule all The Machines while I sweep away Florence to a romantic village in Normandy. I can carry this large workflow with me and see what the next arbitrator of evil I am forced to endure makes of it.