Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Canadian Gestapo?

I admit we took the crossing over into Canada very blasé.  I did not research all the wrongs and rights.  We all had passports and Greg knew not to bring any guns (he has a pistol carrying permit in Georgia.)  That’s as far as we went preparing for our border crossing.  Plenty of prep as long as you don’t run into the Canadian Gestapo.

We have traveled to many countries: Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and all through Europe.  Customs is not new to us; however, we have never traveled via our own car to any of these locations. 

Lost something in your car?  Cross the border into Canada and have the agents find it for you. We discovered the hard way that when you drive a car for 10 years, it can take a border guard to find some long missing item you didn’t even know was there. 

Imagine this scenario: 

We drive up the to the border window on the Maine Road into Canada and hand them our passports.  The female agent behind the window asks if we have any alcohol, tobacco or weapons in the vehicle.  We declare some alcohol, but no tobacco and no weapons.  Please pull your vehicle over for the agents to check.  Many cars go straight through while we wait for two guards to pull out every piece of luggage, bag, container, etc. and go through every compartment and check every seam, carpet and chair for illicit materials.  We stand at the front of the car, freezing, but not worried at all.  We are a family of five on vacation.  No worries, right?

Wrong.  Next thing we know one guard walks up with bullets in his hand and asks, “Where is the gun?”  “At home, of course,” is our reply.  One frisking later…It is not illegal to have bullets.  No worries?

Wrong, again.  To the guard’s shear delight, somewhere in the bowels of our enormous Ford Excursion, he pulls out a butterfly knife that I haven’t seen in years.  “If this is a weapon and you did not declare it, you will be fined.”  “How do we declare something we didn’t know was there?”    “You are responsible for knowing every article in your vehicle…” (This guy obviously is not married, does not have children and has never traveled across the country with five people in one car and I honestly still have no idea what is in our car, but I know there is no knife.)

Cut to Greg sarcastically, but calmly, paying the $500 fine (So glad Canada is safe from this 2 inch knife.  When prompted to sign the credit card receipt, Greg remarked, “What, no line for the tip?”  He had an even wittier line, but decided against it after gauging the agent’s response to the ‘tip’ crack.) and me, steaming, back in the car.  

I know this is small potatoes, and budget-blowing fine aside, the part that bothered me the most was the no excuses, no understanding, and the coldness of the whole event.  While planning this year, I imagined seeing the world and traveling as a world citizen, not just United States.

Driving away, finally, all I wanted was to be tucked into my own bed back in the good old U. S. of A.  

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