If you live in southern Ontario, visiting America is easy. Short drive, cross a bridge, off you go.

My work visits to America were to places slightly less scenic. In no particular date order: to Washington for an international conference on Ozonation; to Pittsburgh for a water treatment plants and distribution system automation study/design project; to Cleveland for a water pumping station upgrade of instrumentation and controls pre-design study; to Erie, PA to present a conference paper about Heavy Metals Removal using Lanthanum Oxides (what a barn-barner); and a small plane fly-in to some field (literally) in Michigan to inspect polymer process equipment at a wastewater treatment plant. This latter trip was probably the nastiest encounter with US Customs: landing at Detroit Municipal airport (with walk-off access to America) needed a call to ground control before landing requesting that customs officials meet the plane. After an hour wait outside on a very hot day, two customs officials – one ludicrously overweight and the other his rookie sidekick – showed up. The fat guy is going to show the rookie how to deal with furriners, fx when one traveller mistakenly showed his drivers’ licence as proof of residency, the fat guy said “I didn’t ask if you could f’ing drive”.

But the all-time favourites were regular trips to Tonawanda (famous on Buffalo News for a seemingly endless string of 3-alarm fires) Wastewater Treatment Plant to work on automation designs for stormwater flow modulation. Border formalities were: Citizenship – (waves Canadian Passport); Purpose of your visit (explained, and without any further interaction) OK. Except the one time the officer’s response was ‘Nobody would make up a story like that! Off you go and have a great day.

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