Dec 19, 2014: 20 Questions -- Border Security Edition

Got my first taste of airport security last Tuesday, as we travelled to Cologne, Germany. We checked our bags, and passed through passport control without any issue. But just as we were preparing to pass through security, my name echoed through the PA. We were already through passport control, so I caught the attention of the security person and she called down to find out what they needed me for. An older, portly man arrived and escorted me downstairs. There was a problem with my bag. I followed, leaving my laptop bag with Adam. As I followed the security agent, it occurred to me that, if this man chose, I could be detained. I didn’t panic at the thought, so much as ponder how I’d go about getting in contact with the Canadian Embassy.

Turns out they just wanted to double check that my laptop was, in fact, a working laptop and not a bomb. All in all, not a bad first experience with airport security.

Once we arrived in Cologne, things got a little more sticky. Our bags were fine, it was our passports that were in question. Turns out the Germans are sticklers for Schengen area bureaucracy. We were the last people through passport control, and the guard checking Adam’s passport wasn’t sure if we were allowed in that day, or the day after. (Schengen zone travel stipulates that you’re only allowed in for 90 days of every 180 day period). Adam had timed it so we were entering within (as he calculated) the first week we were eligible.

Unable to confirm if Adam was eligible, they called over the guard from the neighbouring booth. Now we had three blonde guards debating, in German, whether or not Adam was allowed into the country.

The guard dealing with me nearly let me through. His hand was hovering over the passport stamp, waiting for the go ahead from his companions. That’s when the third guard asked me if Adam and I we were together. When I affirmed what was obvious the man with the stamp let out a sigh and put it away so they could compare our passports.

The trio didn’t really seem troubled with our actual documentation. Every now and then one of them would switch into English to ask us a question. Adam’s passport seemed to be missing an exit stamp from Italy. Why were we traveling? Did we have family in Cologne? Our answers confused the guards a little. We had no idea why Adam didn’t have an exit stamp. We were traveling for pleasure. And, no, we didn’t have any family in Cologne.

It took about half an hour for either the Christmas spirit to get the better of them, or for them to tire of teasing us. As usual, we were pretty mellow during the whole thing. (Staying relaxed and pleasant is about the best way to get through any situation). They waved us through with as much of a smile as airport security officials are allowed.

As we moved through the turnstiles on either side of the booth, one of the guards asked what job Adam could have that would allow us to travel like this.
“I’m a programmer,” Adam said.

The guard nodded and smiled.