March 31, 2009
Frustration with the Border
We work in a digital world but we exist in the real world. It's often difficult to tell the difference but every once in a while the reality of real strikes home in unexpected ways. I find myself once again stuck in Canada trying desperately to get back to America to do exactly what I am doing right now in the company of my colleagues in the studio. I am being paid to write this post to this blog. Earlier today, I wrote a commercial that will soon air on WebmasterRadio.FM. I get paid to write commercial copy. In an hour or so, I will be working the phones calling people I met at SESNY09. I get paid to network, gladhand and represent WebmasterRadio.FM in as professional a manner as I possibly can. While none of these tasks actually require me to physically be in the studio in Fort Lauderdale, being there makes every task and follow-up far easier. I am having a frustrating day today. Much earlier I tried to cross the border with documents needed to attain a specialized Visa which would allow me to perform the duties mentioned above. As a management consultant and technical blogger, I have every right to ply my trade on either side of the Canada / US border provided I have employers willing to pay me and the right documents to demonstrate my professionalism and employment. I thought everything was in order. I even called the US consulate yesterday to insure all my documents were in order. As it turns out, faxed documents do not constitute the "right" kind of documents. Only originals will do. I was thus denied entry to the United States for the first time in my professional life. I did not try to explain that I wrote the original documents and could show them to him if the DHS official would allow me to open my laptop and access them. I figured that would only confuse the issue. I also did not try to explain that hours after being processed and sent home I would simply go to work anyway, albeit, remotely. The experience got me thinking. What exactly is an original document in a digital world? Moreover, what's the point of barring digital workers from crossing a border if they can perform the same tasks from one side or the other? Some days, very little makes sense. This is definitely one of those days. To recap, while we work in a digital world that virtually knows no borders, the studio is a physical location full of digital devices and real people. Proximity to those real people makes all the difference in both the digital and not-so-digital world. That, in a weird way, makes sense but a seemingly arbitrary decision at a busy airport does not. Hopefully, a courior will deliver those original documents early tomorrow morning and I can rejoin my coworkers in Fort Lauderdale within 24-hours.