If you’ve travelled between these two cities, you know that you have to clear US immigration and customs at Toronto airport, itself, before you hand over your luggage and board your flight.
My manager was travelling with me and we had thought nothing of loading all our suitcases onto one trolley before joining the immigration and customs line at Pearson Airport.
I went through immigration first and, as I waited in the customs area, I saw an officer striding up to me.
She was a tiny, middle-aged lady with thick, coke-bottle glasses. Her hair was greased into a tight braid and her uniform, that already appeared to be a couple of sizes too large for her, was secured with such a huge, heavy belt that it made her look a bit like a child in a costume. What she lacked in height and heft, she clearly made up for in attitude and it was apparent she took her job very seriously.
As she approached, chin raised and chest puffed out, I noticed that she was also Indian, so I smiled and nodded, acknowledging our shared heritage, as one does when one encounters fellow countrymen on foreign shores.
But she was all business and was having none of it. Looking scrappy and annoyed, she motioned to me to move on through with a brusque wave of her hand.
“I’m just waiting for my luggage,” I explained, pointing to my manager who was in the process of his immigration formalities.
“Why’s he got ya luggage?” she bellowed.
I was slightly taken aback to hear a voice that big come out of a lady that little. Although she was of Indian descent, it was evident from her Caribbean accent that she was from The Islands.
“We’re travelling together. He’s my manager,” I elaborated.
She took a moment to consider this.
“Ya a’ Bollywood star or sometin’?”
“Well, I’m an actor.”
“An actor?” she scoffed, “Really?”
She looked me up and down, disdainfully. “What’s ya name?”
Before I could get out the ‘am of ma’am, she delivered her verdict:
All one word. No pauses.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, so I just smiled and shrugged.
“So ya don’t carry ya own luggage? You make ya poor manager do it?”
“No ma’am. It’s not like that. We’re travelling together so we just put all our cases onto one cart.”
“Ya a Bollywood actor and ya can’t get two carts? They a’ only two dollars.”
“It’s a tough economy,” I joked.
She didn’t so much as crack a smile.
At this point, a junior officer, also Indian, who had been watching from the sidelines, came up and whispered something into her ear. Her face suddenly lit up.
“Is ya father Rajesh Khanna?”
“Er… no, ma’am.“
“No?” She shot her colleague a lethal glare.
“No ma’am. My father is Vinod Khanna,” I clarified.
“Yes. Vinod Khanna.”
She rolled her eyes.
At this point, I was fighting a losing battle against uncontrollable guffaws. Thankfully, my manager arrived just in time and we went through the customs procedures and on to the luggage-drop area. But, up until we had nearly reached our boarding gate, I could still hear her pontificating to her colleague in her booming voice.
“Hmmph! Bollywood actor… Neverheardofhim! Makes his manager wheel around his luggage… Neverheardofhim!”