I ventured across the border into the US yesterday. As usual, it was an interesting adventure. I had taken it really easy loading up the trailer – pack some, rest some, repeat until finished – and was feeling good.
I drove to Sumas crossing as it is the closest one to where I needed to go – Deming, Washington – and I also like the fact that the crossing is not as busy as the ones closer to me. Life was good. I was relaxed. I drove forward to the customs booth. “Nationality?” he said “Canadian but travelling on a British passport” I replied. “What did you say?” I repeated the words. He took my documents. Then he went into a tirade of words which I didn’t understand because I could not hear them over the burble of my Jeep’s V8 engine. “Could you repeat that please, sir?” Be polite, be patient and above all don’t get smart, Sal.
Omg, he repeated and I still didn’t hear. “I am sorry to have to ask you…” I was hanging half out of the window at this point, screwing up my eyes, trying to give him the body language to get him to understand his mumbling was not making it over the delightfully guttural burble of Mickey Blue Eyes (name of my Jeep). By now “he” was not amused. I knew he would send me in for vetting because they always do. What I didn’t know is that he had red flagged me for serious scrutiny for immigration “stuff” (not sure what the stuff was!!).
There is something to be said about being someone who crosses the border not too often but often enough to have a track record. The more senior guys, inside, took one look at their screen and said “So, you have become a Canadian! Why aren’t you using your Canadian passport?” I would have thought that was pretty darn obvious but held my tongue “Because I have not, as yet, applied for one”. “Why not?” Oh my, I wanted to scream “…because I didn’t know there was a necessity to do so when I still had a perfectly valid passport in my possession”. I took the safer route, “…because I didn’t make the time to do that yet”.
But not the end of my problems. Next the really nice man from the food and wildlife section was asking me what I had in the trailer. I listed off as much as I could in terms of apples, oranges, celery, a couple of avocado, cheese… then I faltered. I just couldn’t remember what was in my fridge. I wasn’t trying to be smart, I was struggling to remember and that made me more nervous. I apologized and used the age card “… gee, this getting older really does effect the memory. If I have forgotten anything it is not intentional, it is because I genuinely cannot remember” Then came the really embarrassing part “When did you load the trailer?” What could I do but tell the truth “A couple of hours ago”. “… and you cannot remember what you put in the fridge?!” I didn’t know how to answer that except with a very pathetic “… apparently not and I am embarrassed to admit that”. ‘I see we gave you a pamphlet on what foods you could bring into the States about a year ago. Why didn’t you follow that instruction?” Again, I resisted the “…because, obviously, I lost the darn thing!” and said sheepishly “I lost it”.
Notes to self:
1. Get your Canadian passport sorted out ASAP
2. Keep that allowable foods pamphlet in the trailer!
3. Find out why oranges can come from the US but may not return. Weird. Apples can but not oranges clearly marked that they come from the US. Anyone know why?!