Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Drug Dog and I - Part II

Our travel companions were waved from the baggage area through one door and we were hustled through another. It was a fairly large room  that at first glance kind of looked like a grocery checkout...except the people standing at the counters were in uniform and armed and there were no tills...and, come to think of it, no groceries. It wasn't like I could pick up a pack of gum on my way through.

“Have you been in recent contact with marijuana?” one official asked as we followed his beckoning and pushed our baggage cart to one of the counters.

"We just came from Jamaica,” I said. “Marijuana is everywhere, there. Hotel security tries selling it to you—“

“I know,” he interrupted. “I’ve been to Jamaica.”

What I wanted to say: Then why did you fricken ask that question?

What I actually said: Nothing

My husband carried on the conversation, explaining in more detail the offer he’d received while getting on the shuttle bus to the airport while I followed instructions and heaved the first suitcase up onto the counter. While men talk, the women work—as usual.

“Did you smoke anything while down there?” was the next question.

“We don’t use,” we answered in unison, me adding that we are actually quite anti-drug

 “What do you do for a living?”

Hubby answered first saying he was a housing contractor while I debated whether to say I ran the housing contracting office or to say I was a novelist. Both were true. I hoped to say nothing but, “And you?” was directed my way.

What I wanted to say: I write novels about gangs and drugs and undercover cops and just finished a 23-stop author tour to schools and libraries educating teens and the adults in their lives about the danger of involvement in the drug trade...and I volunteer for the RCMP.”

What I actually said: Novelist. 

“Were you near any cocaine while in Jamaica?” he asked.

What I wanted to say: Although Shrug, a cop character in my BackTracker series, learned all about the international drug trade during his four-year stint undercover with the fictional TRAZ biker gang, he never shared that intel with me so there are large gaps in my understanding. Why would anyone want to import marijuana to Canada from Jamaica when, from my understanding, the best mj in the world is just over the Rockies in the beautiful neighbouring Canadian province of B.C. And furthermore, it was not like mj was dirt cheap down there or something. I heard they were asking for $5.00 USD for one joint! How is it that I hear on the news about drug shipments being intercepted by police on the way from Canada to Mexico? From Mexico to Canada? From Toronto to Europe? From the UK to New York? I have this visual of flotillas of cocaine and marijuana endlessly traversing the oceans of the world waiting to be intercepted--

What I actually said: “Never saw any.”

We were asked about our customs declaration form and Alvin told him the story about the error with the ring. My computer was pulled out of its case and set aside. About then I decided I would buy another smaller computer just for travelling. Unlike regular cops, Border officials do not need search warrants and can search and/or confiscate whatever they wish without explanation or justification. If I were to lose my computer with all my writing...I’d die. I was somewhat comforted by the fact I had taken the time to back up everything before I left, but all the photos from the trip and the personal info on there. Border officials can even demand your passwords and get info your bank files, history—anything else they wish to peek at. Seeing someone manhandle my fuschia lace bra was invasive, but would be nothing compared to the violation I’d feel if someone got into my laptop. 

About then the ring in question was discovered in my change purse. Note to self: fictional drug smugglers ought not to hide their stash in change purses.

They were interested in our money, of which there was notably less than what we'd started out with two weeks ago and every receipt and bit of paper they could find. After uncovering the fourth "Comfort Pack" (blanket, earphones, ear plugs, eyeshades) that came with our upgraded airline seats, he asked, "Do they give these away, or what?"

What I wanted to say: Yes, actually they do. We did NOT steal them.
What Hubby said: Yes

Our Bubba Mugs, large insulated mugs for keeping beer and strawberry daiquiris cold on the beach, were pulled out and opened. I’d asked hubby to pack my sunglasses in the largest of the mugs. He had diligently wrapped each of the three pair in facial tissue (I guess he didn’t realize these are $3.00 sunglasses).  Each pair was unwrapped and examined. NOTE to self: Don’t have your bad guy hide his stash in a bubba mug, or a wallet...or a birthday card.

Items of interest to the Border Officials
I’d turned 50 (again) while in Jamaica (hence the ring) and the birthday card from my friends, which seemed to interest the guy. He pulled it from the envelope, shook the envelope, shook the card. Damned near sniffed it. Perhaps it confused him that some of my friends had written, “Happy 50th!” and others, (whom I like less) had written “Happy 59th! The ceramic souvenir picture frame that had come with the card seemed of concern, as well. 

Meanwhile the other officer who’d arrived to help with search, was pulling Jamaican rum from the various suitcases he was into and lining them up beside my laptop. We were getting mighty close to our liquor import limit—if not exceeding it.

Things were not looking good.

The Drug Dog and I - Part II 
was brought to you by
Drugs, Crime, Cops and PTSD

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Drug Dog and I - Part I

You know you are a crime writer when... the top-most thing on your mind when pulled over for a border security baggage search is to watch where the officers DON’T look so you know exactly where the smuggler in your next novel is going to stow his stash.

Yes, okay, all right. I probably did have a few other things on my mind during that search (like ‘OMG! He’s going to see my KY Jelly’ and ‘I can’t believe you’re actually touching my entire two weeks-worth of dirty panties!’) but none of it was likely what Canadian Border Security imagined I was thinking.

Of course in the presence of the law, trying to look innocent when one actually is, is difficult under most circumstances. Thus, when it’s 1 a.m. following a seven-hour flight home from a two-week vacation in Jamaica the task of keeping oneself from getting into even more trouble increases significantly. Especially if you are the kind of person I am—who enjoys being witty, handles stress with humour and lively conversation, and is notoriously dozy after midnight. My keen interest in crime, criminals, law enforcement...and the illicit drug trade didn’t help much in this case, either. I bit my tongue so often during the hour-long ordeal, it is still sore four days later.

Things started off not badly, the flight home from Jamaica was comfortable (thanks to upgraded seats) and quicker than expected (as noted by the flight attendant upon landing—although what that was due to wasn’t mentioned.) We came in on a huge jet, yet despite that fact the line moved through the cattle gates to the Canada Immigration and Customs kiosks fairly quickly. Our turn at the desk hit a bump when we discovered we couldn’t share the cost of my ammolite birthday ring under our exemptions—because, they said, we couldn’t share the ring. They waved us through  despite our error and I calculated I’d be snug in bed in about an hour if the baggage came through in timely manner.
My ammolite ring--a birthday gift from hubby

A dog barking off somewhere was my first clue things were other than usual. I couldn’t see the beast initially but after visiting the loo and re-joining hubby and the rest of flight #TS119 passengers, who were all staring sleepily at a baggage carousel that was not moving, the pooch  came into view.

Now I have a thing against Labrador Retrievers, which is in itself a story. It’s not that I’m afraid of them, in fact I’ve come to the conclusion the fact I’m not, is a large part of what created my Lab problems. I simply don’t respect these dogs that seem to assume I am there for them and their pleasure. Most of my problems rest with the Alpha dogs of this species but the puppy dogs of this species also annoy the "h" out of me. So when I discovered the barking was being emitted by a Chocolate Lab with more energy than Hurricane Katrina and who more than once broke free from it’s handler’s hold to whip around the baggage claim area with abandoned, I was not happy.

From past experience I know ignoring these dogs is not the right strategy (they don’t like being ignored and will escalate their behaviour until you MUST notice them). However, being as it was past the wee witching hour, I had little energy to expend on trying to keep my eyes on a chocolate whirling dervish. Watching the carousel which was still not moving, was more my speed.

True to past experience, my ignoring the critter drew him to my side—and then up on top of my baggage cart where he promptly knocked off one of my carry-ons. He then sat.

Now...if you know anything about law-enforcement dogs, sniffing and then sitting means they’ve smelled something. All these dogs are trained to track people and then some are cross-trained to sniff explosives and others to sniff drugs. They are taught to sit if they catch a whiff. From the very beginning I highly doubted that this Lab was seeking explosives.

“The dog likes your bag,” I said to hubby. The dog glanced behind me to its handler and upon some kind of signal took off after the green tennis ball she threw.

Did I mention I don’t like Chocolate Labs? I’m pretty sure this pup had developed a theory that if he sniffed something and sat, his trainer would toss a ball for him to fetch as a reward. I’m pretty sure he decided to test that theory on me—because, Labs don’t like me any more than I like them.

Anyways with the dog now gone, and the carousel still not moving, hubby decided it was a great time to get his jacket out of his carry-on (as in January, it is noticeable colder in our Alberta homeland than in Jamaica ) and then go to the washroom. In hindsight, the fact an official followed him into the washroom was a good follow-up clue to the dog clue and one that was highly predictive of what was about to happen.

In hindsight, hubby is very glad he needed only to use the urinal and not a cubicle. In hindsight, taking a jacket from the bag a drug dog has just pointed out and heading to the can with it was probably not the least suspicious thing a person could’ve done.

Just when he got back from the can, the carousel began moving and it wasn’t long before our priority luggage was on our cart and we were heading to the back room of Canadian Border Security at the Edmonton International Airport.

Part I of The Drug Dog and I is brought to you by:

a novel about drugs, gangs, cyberCrime and PTSD 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Authors, beware of eBookSmarts!

There is a company called eBookSmarts (.com) run by a fellow named Hassan Shah, and I am appalled at his expectations--and you should be too.

They claim to be able to give you free stats on your books. Sounds okay. I was interested, even though I have other ways of viewing stats. But I have always been open to new ideas, so I thought I'd give them a try.

After finally getting into the site, I went to set up my book info and what did I discover? They actually wanted me to give them my Amazon login info, INCLUDING PASSWORD. WTF???

And you only discover this AFTER you have signed up for their free beta.

When I asked him what "idiot in their right mind" would give him such access, he said "Apparently a couple hundred idiots think our service is worth trying..."


Then he mentioned KDP. So he's asking for either my KDP login info which gives him access to all my personal info like bank account info, including the ability to mess with our publications, pricing and more; or he was asking for my personal Amazon account login info, which gives him access to my personal info and credit card. Really??


Ok, today's rant--over! Maybe...