Wednesday, July 18, 2007

part II: crime and punishment

So there we were, off on day one of our fabulous summer vacation. Originally, our plans had been to head due east for Yellowstone, but in light of the heatwave, we went north to escape it. The plan was to make it to Glacier Park in Canada and camp somewhere around there and tour the Canadian Rockies. That was the plan.

Our first day was spent driving back and forth from the potluck funeral in Myrtle Point, Oregon. No one officiated and it was a good time, got to see cousins from the civilized side of my family. My cousin Linda was eventually sent down the Coquille River at the old campsite at Powers by the people who loved her.

We made it back to Portland by 6:30 or so with the intent to stay home for the night and leave in the morning, but decided to hit the road and try to make it past Seattle the first night. We got as far as Everett before we both collapsed and parked in an RV lot the first night, which was really just a parking lot, and we had to squeeze into the overflow area. We peed in the dark, went to bed, and slept like dead people. Waking up next to a rotting RV with moss for windows and more dirt than tin was not exactly what I had envisioned about camping in Washington, but it was better than crashing on I-5. And it was free. So, we jumped in the cab, let Sid out to pee, and we were off to the Canadian border. Yippee! We found breakfast, good coffee and wifi to check the exchange rate and fruits you can’t bring in. Nectarines. Damn. So far, as supplies go, all I’d forgotten was mustard and carrots, so that was good for me. There will be more. I forget at least one ingredient for each thing I plan to cook but that’s okay because I have money and there is always a store.

We landed in Bellingham at about 8:00 am, stayed for a couple of hours, then north again. By 10:30 we were at the border. We expected Sid to be a problem, but he wasn’t. In fact, they fed him dog biscuits and played with him while they detained us and searched our vehicles. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s always the questions that trip me up. Us. Trip us up. First of all, the girl in the booth asked a million questions. For some reason (which we were told later was because we were pulling a small U-Haul trailer and most people don’t take U-Haul trailers camping) we were told to pull into the lot and go inside to the immigration desk. If you’ve never been to the border, it is a land unto itself. I’d been in situations before where my rights were suspended and I was detained, but I usually had some idea why it was happening. I didn’t like it then and I really didn’t like it now. I’ve been guilty and I’ve been innocent. Both are uncomfortable. So, when we were asked to step out of our vehicle and away from our dog and all of our belongings, we did as they asked, believing it was just a formality – like maybe they check every seventh truck or something.

At the immigration desk, which was much like visiting someone in jail, they asked even more questions, then the same questions in different ways. It was seeming more and more like interrogation or an MMPI. Then, they took our I.D. and walked away. One of the questions was, “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?” I never seem to get that one right. I mean, who hasn’t? Really. Who has not, at some point in time, been cuffed and jailed? Everyone I know has. I guess you might not be surprised to learn that many people have not. So we, like good criminals, said, “Nah, not really.” And this somewhat ambiguous answer is based on so many things. The internal dialogue was something like, "no, we’ve never, like, murdered anyone or robbed a bank" (although I did rob Jack’s Drive Up) but I didn't get caught for that and that’s nothing compared to real criminals. So the answer, for me, is relative. But those border guards just don’t split hairs. It’s yes or no. Did you or did you not get arrested. Well, okay. If you mean EVER ever, then yes, I guess there was a time or two when we had just the teensiest bit of trouble. Big deal. Its not like we’re Bonny and Clyde or something. And the truth is, neither one of us really remembered (until a little later) much that happened twenty or thirty years ago anyway. But none of that was said out loud and the answer remained: "Nah. We’re good."

It is so difficult to have a criminal mind. It has such a hard time finding fault with itself.

So, they came back and said to my husband, “Please step through the door that has no windows.” An ominous request in lesser places. We looked at each other and away he went. I waited and waited and began to get nervous. They said nothing. Finally they let him out and he tells me we’ve been rejected. We don’t get to go camping in Canada. The whole story about stealing the lead in 1978 came out under the stress of interrogation. “How much was it worth?” they asked. “I don’t know, but I can tell you what I got for it,” he said with that boyish grin that made me marry him. So on it went.

So, they searched the truck and trailer anyway, even though we were going home. And they kept us apart in case we tried to get the story straight, and wouldn’t give us back our I.D. and detained us for about two hours. But the punch line was, “But you can buy a 10 day pass for 200.00.” Hmmm. Maybe, we’re thinking… maybe we'll just pay and stay. Then they say, “But we keep the nectarines.”

Fuck you. Fuck Canada. I love my nectarines.

Finally, completely demoralized, we were allowed to leave Canada. Which wasn’t the end of it, because we had to give our rejection slip to the US Customs, which created yet another scene.

I decided it was a Kodak Moment and took some pictures at the border, which turns out to be a terrorist act and they nearly took my camera away from me and told me to delete the pictures which I said okay and clearly did not. See below.

So, on we went, touring the US, where we are wanted. Well, not wanted in that sense.


msb said...

whow the times they are a changen'. They led John M. you know, the one I married across, no problem. Sure hope all the rest of your vacation was a blast.... i mean fun. :+}

Anonymous said...

what a great vacation story, and great telling of it. i am laughing my tired behind off, reading it to my son.

asha said...

Yeah, fuck Canada or, more accurately, the Canadian fascists in bed with King George the Pretender.

asia said...

i got searched going through the canadian border once too... i always did wonder why.