I am now in Kamloops, and the Imagine No Religion 4 conference begins today with a buffet dinner at 5 and then a panel at 7 pm on free will, where Professor Ceiling Cat will expound his controversial views on incompatibilism.
I’m told that last year the host of this year’s free will panel, philosopher Chris DiCarlo, gave his own argument about free will (I believe that he’s a hard determinist like me), and Dan Dennett got up during the question session and spent the whole 20 minutes attacking DiCarlo’s views. (Dennett, of course, is a compatibilist who has confected a view of human free will that is, to me, unconvincing.) I believe we’ll have a libertarian free-willer on this year’s panel. Tomorrow I talk on theology and science.
The schedule of talks for the conference looks great and refreshingly drama-less.
The weather is lovely, as is this small town. I flew from Chicago to Calgary (3.5 hours), and the following 1.25-hour hop on a propeller plane from Calgary to Kamloops took us right over the Canadian Rockies and several other mountain ranges. It was lovely and clear; here is one of many pictures I took from my window seat:
But I must relate something that happened to me at the Calgary airport.
Our plane was late from Chicago because of storm delays, and when I got to Calgary I found that I had to not only clear Canadian customs, but also go through another security check before getting on the plane to Kamloops. Because of that, and the confusing directions I got to security, I was late. By the time I got to security, there was a line of about fifty people waiting to have their bags x-rayed and bodies checked, and the checking was SLOW. They let in about one person every two minutes, and, at the end of the line, I realized that at that rate I would miss my plane.
For the first time in my life, I decided to try to jump the queue. I went to its head and asked the woman in charge (a member of what I guess is the Canadian equivalent of the TSA) if I could go ahead, as I was due at the gate in five minutes. I also showed her my boarding pass on which, at check-in, they’d written: “Be at gate at 2:00.” It was about 1:56.
She fixed me with a peremptory gaze and said, “Sorry, sir, there’s nothing I can do for you. You’ll have to get back in line.”
I slinked to the rear of the line again, finding my place, and fretted. But, watching the line’s slow progress, I wasn’t happy, and decided to try again. In five minutes I went back to the head of the line and literally begged the woman to let me through.
She gave me the same response, “Sorry, sir, there’s nothing I can do.” In other words, she’d rather make me miss my plane than allow me the courtesy of going ahead.
Determined not to give up, I turned around, addressed the first guy in line and asked him, “Excuse me, sir, but I’m about to miss my plane. Do you mind if I go ahead of you?” He said, “Sure!”
Happy that I had succeeded, I stood at the head of the line and waited my turn. But the Canadian official told me this: “Not so fast. You have to ask permission from everybody who was in line ahead of you.“
I was stunned. Really? For a second I sort of understood, for if you jump a queue you’re really going ahead of everyone, not just the first person in line, and Canadians are famous for their politeness in queues:
But at this point I wasn’t about to admit defeat. I walked all the way down the line, waving my boarding pass and shouting repeatedly, “I’m going to be late; does anybody mind if I go ahead of them?” No passenger objected.
At that point the Candian-TSA woman let me through. But screening was still slow, and I barely made my plane.
For a while I was just amused at what I thought was a vivid demonstration of the famous Canadian politeness (see cartoon above). But the more I think about it, the more I’m peeved that an official would rather have me miss my plane than go to the head of the line (something that is regularly allowed in the U.S. for late passengers). And it was a bit humiliating to have to walk that line asking everyone to let me pass.
I’m asking Canadian readers: is this normal behavior? Or was I simply the victim of an officious official who didn’t like what she saw as an obnoxious and pushy American?