Crossing the Border

For those of you who don’t know, border crossings into and out of Canada have been pretty intense since 9/11.  Not only do we have extremely long lines, but we also have militant border guards without a sense of humor.  Not to worry.  Just remember to take off your sunglasses and sing a few songs…

Time:  10:03 EST

Setting:  US border crossing into Canada at Cornwall.  Rainy, just beginning to subside.

Characters:  Mike and Ellen.  Border guard.

Border Guard:  Bonjour.

Mike and Ellen:  Bonjour.  Hi.

Border Guard:  Place of Citizenship?

Mike:  United States.

Border Guard:  Where in the US?

Mike: Michigan.

Border Guard:  *looks over at Ellen* And you?

Ellen:  Uh, yeah.  Michigan.

Border Guard:  What are you going to Canada for?

Mike:  We’re spending a few days in Montreal.

Ellen:  The cheese.

Border Guard:  Excuse me?

Ellen:  Nothing.

Border Guard:  Let me see your IDs.

*Mike hands over their drivers licenses*

Border Guard:  *emphatically* Where are your passports?

Mike:  Passports?  We are from the US.  We never use passports.

Border Guard:  *increasingly emphatic*  How am I suppose to know you are from the US?  What makes you an American?

*Mike and Ellen exchange a look.  Each of them stares into space a few seconds*

Ellen:  Well, uh, we can sing the Star Spangled Banner?

Border guard:  *Almost, but not quite, a smile.*  Okay.  I’ll let you through.  But next time bring your passports!

You know what the moral of the story is.  It has something to do with a passport.

Photocredit:  © Ellen Wilson

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30 thoughts on “Crossing the Border”

  1. Hi Ellen;

    Welcome back!

    Yeah, any time I’ve crossed the border, it’s been the U.S. border guards that have been the unfriendliest.

    Once I did a road trip from Montreal to Northern Maine on a weekend. In the winter. They didn’t believe that I wasn’t up to no good, and searched my entire car. (When they found my Teddy Bear, they gave me strange looks). (And this was pre-9-11).

    Another time, they asked where I lived. With my parents. Where do I work. I don’t. I’m laid off. Why are you going to the States? Vacation.

    Then he proceeded to yell at me for not having a job, living with my folks, what the hell was I going on a trip for? 🙂

    All you can do is say Yessir, Nossir, Three Bags Full Sir.

    Coming back into Canada, the Canadian guards don’t give a shit. You get some 20 year old who’s bored out of their skull and might ask you two questions if you’re lucky.

    I almost wish they WOULD be a bit more inquisitiv over here! 🙂

  2. Hi Ellen,

    The cheese?

    When we left Alaska (years ago), we drove through Canada. When we got to the border, we had to go inside with all of our paperwork. Our girls who were 10 and 14 were nervous, but their eyes lite up when they saw something. They cheerfully said, “Hey, look at the picnic tables”. The guards didn’t think that was funny at all, and gruffly said, “Those are search tables”. Both girls instantly started crying. When we got in the vehicle, they both said, “We hate Canada”.

    They were so happy when we crossed the border back into the US. Now they laugh about that memory.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..It’s Not Your Fault I Can’t Spell

  3. Welcome back Ellen! You were missed! Ann Handley wrote of the same bad experience with US Border Guards. Hmm, guess I won’t be visiting Canada without a passport! Glad you made it back. 🙂

  4. I am in the middle of undating my passport right now. Such a pain! Had to because of getting married.
    So how is Canada? Beisides the Border?

  5. Ellen:

    Haha! Oh, I know what you mean about the cheese! They have stores just dedicated to cheese in Montreal!! mmm cheese… (it’s my favourite food)

    Funny story! I’m glad it ended up all right. Hope you had a friendly time in Montreal.

  6. When I was younger and traveled to Mexico, I thought it was odd that we didn’t need passports. I mean, it’s a separate country, right? Now, I find myself thinking it’s odd that we need passports to get into Canada and Mexico. Funny how things change.

    Glad you’re back, by the way! I missed your posts 😉

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..When it All Comes Crashing Down

  7. Hey Everyone!

    I thought no one would comment because I have been gone something like eons in Internet land.

    @Friar – That’s a good story. Make sure you write about it. Yeah, they are real militants coming back to the US. And Port Huron sucks. And it sucks doubly if you are a trucker. Like five hours worth.

    @Vered – I really don’t know what we would have done if he didn’t let us through. We would have to eat cheese somewhere else.

    @Barbara – Picnic tables! Ha! That’s a good one. See, you have to have these little stories to make it all worth while.

    @Friar – Steph knows. The cheese is great at Atwater Market. You can’t get enough of it. I think we bought $30 worth of cheese. That was our most expensive purchase. Besides the alcohol.

    @Karen – Hey, glad you missed me! Now I feel needed. I don’t know who Ann Handley is. I’ll have to look her up.

    @Wendi- I love the Canadians. They are generally very friendly. They have this fast food place called Tim Hortons where you can get an egg salad sandwich, a doughnut, and a coffee. They don’t have a lot of Taco Bells, though. I was jonesing for a cheesy bean and rice burrito. Yes, get that passport updated! You never know when you need to run for the border.

    @Steph – We really like Montreal. And there is a good story there, too. Seeing I screwed up the reservation to the wrong motel. But now our motel guy loves us and gave us a discount. I’m going for sure next year to jazz fest. I need to have another garage sale apparently.

    @AxeCity – Hey, now I know what you like to read. Funny travel stories. Maybe I’ll be the next Bella Bryson.

  8. Okay, this just cracks me up because we don’t need a passport to get from Canada into the States. Not if we are driving. We just need our birth certificates. We need passports for flying into the States, but definitely not driving. Wow! We so seriously don’t trust you guys. Sorry, but this just totally cracks me up!

    The cheese!!! OMG. Ellen, dearest, golden rule of crossing the border: do not volunteer ANY information. 🙂

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The Lion’s turn to roar

  9. Laughing. Well written script there. Mike must love your sense of humor during a time like this, eh? Cheese? Singing?

    The worst is at French borders if you Tutoyer instead of Vousvoyer… or however you spell that… For non-French-speakers: tu is informal for you, and vous is formal. ALWAYS USE VOUS, formal, when speaking in French at border controls. Unfortunately, as an American, we are always informal, and I am not very good with vous verbage… and so… “Step to the side. Open your bags, Miss.”

    Friar — With a teddy bear? Trying to lure little American kids back to Canada are ya? Where’s the bag of candy? “Then he proceeded to yell at me for not having a job, living with my folks, what the hell was I going on a trip for?” …laughing…

    Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood’s last blog post..Chick Flick Script 2008: Hellboy II

  10. @Jaden

    Yeah…the teddy bear! (The same Travel Bear that I’ve shown in some of my posts.)

    I’m not trying to lure kids…it’s just that the Bear keeps asking to come along on my trips! 🙂

    Sometimes I like to mess with people. Especially when I put him in the front seat with a seat belt!

    Friar’s last blog post..Friar’s Random Rants (Part II)

  11. Ha! I have come up in the world. Now I have an Anthony Bourdain ad. But I can’t figure out the “so you want to start a house church ad?” Am I pushing relgion here? I thought I was pushing cheese!

    @Urban Panther – This is where our militant, cheese regulating, border patrol comes in. Apparently the Canadians can throw tons of cheese at us. We need to guard against that. I try not to volunteer too much, but you never know when it may come back to haunt you.

    @Melissa – Things change too fast. Wouldn’t it be nice if it stayed the same until we died? I mean, really? Why should we have to put up with all this silliness.

    When I went to Mexico when I was 13 people at this age could buy tequila. In fact, if your head reached the height of the stall vendors would sell it to little kids. Not that I’m advocating that, but the vendors entrusted the kids to bring it back to their parents. And what was that stuff called? With the worm in it? Oh yeah, Metzqual. I heard it makes you hallucinate.

    @Jaden – The most I know of vous is in the village where I heard, “Gay vous?” That’s as formal as it gets for me. Mike generally likes my sense of humor until he gets too embarrassed.

    Yeah, Friar should get some kind of real job. hehe

  12. Friar,

    I would have liked to have seen the border guard’s face when you pulled up with Teddy. I’m surprised they didn’t take out his stuffing.

  13. @Ellen

    The one time (Crossing the border in Fort Kent, Maine) the woman border guard with a big gun on her holster calmy asked me “my own safety” to stand back from the car as she went through my bags.

    When she found the bear stuffed in there, she just rolled her eyes, and I guess that’s when she decided I wasn’t much of a threat.

    People bitch about racial profiling, well, as a single male traveling alone (with a scruffy beard and baseball cap), I’ve had my share of snarky treatment from customs agents.

    Friar’s last blog post..Friar’s Random Rants (Part II)

  14. Friar,

    Yeah, I’ve heard my share of bad border stories (all from men). Mike was stopped and searched with a friend. And another guy we know was stopped and given 72 hours to get through Canada. For no apparent reason other than the way he looked.

    You’re right. It is profiling. But statistically speaking, profiling is there for a reason.

    I just smile and take off my sunglasses. And I always get through.

    Watch, now. I’ve fated myself.

  15. @Ellen, I went to Jamaica when I was 19 and was very excited that they served booze to adults. That meant anyone over 18. I’m torn on change. In many cases, change is good, keeps things moving forward. But sometimes, it’s just a big old drag to readjust to new ways. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need passports at all.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..When it All Comes Crashing Down

  16. Ellen,

    Ah, the passport discussion returns. Now I know which side I would be squashed on if I tried to go without.

    If Grandma Wendi hears this she’ll be telling me about opportunities I’m ignoring again. Better go quietly.

    Glad your trip went well other than that!

    Wait: Start time, 10:03. End time?? Oh, wait, 10:03 is when you began speaking to the guy. How long were you in line before you got to him? And did you have to show your birth certs or just driver’s licenses?




    Kelly’s last blog post..Dreaming BIG when you still feel small

  17. Aww, Grandma, why? I have no need to go traipsing around the globe!

    Let the globe traipse around me!

    I feel I’ve said this all before…

    You aren’t Grandma Wendi to me, you know. You’re the Wendi-bird from Peter Pan. I knew you’d fly in soon.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Dreaming BIG when you still feel small

  18. @Melissa – I have to admit I DID buy tequila at age 13. I had to revise my comment to you because… it was just too outspoken. I’m not a good liar. I didn’t drink it until I was older…like 18. Or something…like that.

    Change is not easy. Same is easy. But boring. I don’t think I’m here to be bored. Then I will bore everyone else!

    @Kelly & Wendi – You guys are like the Internet’s stand up comedy routine.

    @Kelly – We waited about 30 minutes. You will be squished in line on getting back to the US, that’s the worst. But Cornwall seems to have militant guard patrol. Just bring your birth certificate and you will be okay. Because you’re a woman. I promise.

    @Wendi – You are a trip! How in the hell did you know that Kelly was here?

  19. @Kelly – Looks like we’re stuck at the border on a Friday night. Better make a run for it!

  20. Oh..Kelly…you discovered my secret identity.

    OK true disclosure now and I’ll deny it if I need to. I am Wendi. My Husband is John. My son is Michael and my daughter is………Tinker Bell… oh alright Lizzie but we call her Tink and she has the hat to prove it!

  21. Wendi,

    I forgot about subscribed comments. Did you ever work out the RSS button? I mean to get a bigger, fatter button soonish.

  22. OVER ZEALOUS Customs “officers” story- recently pulled me to the side to do a search… for what i don’t know. They just seemed SO surprised that a woman would be traveling alone for her own leisure.
    THEM: why are you entering the states, what do you do for a living ? (what this has to do with one’s citizenship I have no idea!!)
    ME: Told them I’m a photographer. Uh, going on vacation.
    ME (what I would have said had I no fear of them harassing me further)
    Does it look like there’s somebody else in the car???
    They just could NOT believe that I would want to come to the states, to travel YES by MYSELF!!! I swear this would not have occurred in the the same way if I was a male. UGH!

  23. Hi Maria,

    That would be aggravating. I haven’t had any trouble crossing the Canadian border by myself. And no one has ever asked me what I do for a living – just what are you going to be doing HERE for your stay.

    Well, don’t let it deter you. Chock it up to one of those interesting travel stories!

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