While I don’t fly very often, the last few times have been annoying because of the length of time it’s taken to clear Customs (and we’re just talking round trips between Canada and the US) so I decided to apply for the NEXUS program - a cross-border initiative where, once approved, you are issued a card containing biometric data that can be used to speed you through checkpoints.

Since both the US and Canada are involved, there are two different online forms you can use to apply…the US version first requires you to create an account in GOES (Global Online Enrollment System) and their requirements for creating passwords are some of the most restrictive I’ve ever seen. I’m sure most of you have run across situations where a password has to be a certain length and can’t use certain characters, but for GOES it’s a bit more complicated:

1) Minimum 8, maximum 12 characters

2) Must start with a number

3) Must contain a “non-standard” character such as % $ # @ ^ & * ( )

Well, you get the idea.

I finished setting up my account and began filling out the NEXUS application. It took a while because there are a lot of sections where you were entering the same information over and over (While I suppose it’s possible in BizarroWorld that my birthdate wouldn’t match the birthdate on my passport, it’s pretty unlikely - then again, perhaps they’re trying to catch people in a lie). I was doing okay until I got to the second to last section, where they asked for my car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).

Ahem…nice of them to warn me ahead of time that I might need something like this.

Considering that I didn’t have my car, or even my insurance papers at hand, I was stuck. I decided to save what I’d done so far and then come back to it later once I’d had a chance to get the information, while hoping they weren’t going to spring any other surprises on me.

I was rather annoyed at completing 90% of the application and being stuck in the final stretch, but on a hunch I decided to bring up the Canadian version of the NEXUS application form, and discovered:

1) No special system account registration needed (meaning no funky password hoodoo)

2) No vehicle information required (I don’t understand why the VIN was requested in the first place since NEXUS covers land, air and sea travel - and for 2 out of 3 of those I’m unlikely to be driving, not to mention the question of how a rental car is handled)

So, I filled out the Canadian application, printed it off and stuck it in the mail, logged back into GOES with my funky password and cancelled the US application.

So, my friends, what have we learned from this story? It’s quite simple:

The reason terrorists get into the US via Canada is because up here, we don’t track Vehicle Identification Numbers.

I wonder if Michael Chertoff’s gut is aching right now?

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