Flashback to a New York City trip a couple years ago. I was passing through U.S. immigration at Pearson, and getting a look from the border guard that could only be described as “askance.” (If you’ve ever gotten that look from an INS official, you’ll know what I mean.) My paperwork came back to me in a big red clipboard, which, I soon discovered, is Not Good.

I was ushered off to a small, secure anteroom off the immigration hallway, with rows of seating that might accommodate 50-odd, but were on this day pressed into service seating one. A strapping young uniformed lad sat at a computer, maintaining an impressively indifferent attitude to his only, um, customer. He left me to squirm for about 15 minutes before calling me up.

“Take off the sunglasses,” he demanded. I did. A camera flashed.

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Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.