I woke before my alarm today, and got an Uber Pool to the airport to save $15. This meant a slightly circuitous route as my driver had to pick up and drop off two other people, but by 3:30 I’d arrived, giving me plenty of time to check in.

Except I couldn’t check in at the automatic kiosk. I went to ask what to do, and after a couple of times of being sent back to the automatic kiosk, eventually somebody figured out I didn’t have a visa for Canada so I couldn’t fly.

This didn’t use to be an issue for me, until a few years ago when Canada instituted the ETA program, which is a lot like the US ESTA except it only costs $7, because Canada. Last time, I remembered while having a shower before I went to the airport that I hadn’t applied, and after five minutes panic was approved for five years.

But I’d then forgotten about it, and because the ETA is tied to a passport, not to a person, and because I got a new passport in February, I was without ETA. (It isn’t required for land entry to Canada, which is why I’d got to Vancouver two weeks ago without any fuss – imagine the rage if I’d waited for three hours at the border and then found I wasn’t going to be let in.)

So, phone in hand, I went off to apply for a new ETA. There is a very long form to do so. You have to specify which country you were born in (and that’s more complicated than it sounds, because I had to scroll down to the bottom of a long list and find there was no United Kingdom, and no Great Britain, because I needed to specify England. – do the Canadians already have things set up for the dissolution of the Union?), you have to type your address with your house number in a different field to the street, you have to choose your industry from one (ambiguous) list and then your occupation from another (closest I could find was "general office worker"), and then I had to remember if I was psychotic, syphlitic or tuberculosic, which was hard work this early in the morning.

And then I tried to pay, but discovered Canada doesn’t accept my joke Discover card. Never mind, I had a Singaporean card I haven’t cancelled yet.

Boom. Transaction rejected. Now I was starting to freak out. Was that a visa rejection? A payment rejection? There was no way to back up and try with a different card, and I didn’t have a different card on me, so after a paroxysm of panic I filled the whole form again, and then had to find the details of the US bank card my wife is holding right now, on the assumption that if your address on the application is not in Singapore, you can’t use a Singaporean card.

After all this, finally I got approved, and I could let my adrenalin level subside. Panic over, for the next five years or until I burn through another 50 pages of passport stamps…

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