There is a lot of talk in America about what should be done with our southern border. A lot of people think that America needs to strengthen the borders, making more of a push to stop people from illegally entering the country. Regardless of your opinion on this matter, the point it, Americans focus a LOT on our southern border.
Canada apparently jumped on this opportunity, silently and sneakily bolstering their own southern border while America had its back turned. It’s the only explanation I can think of, really, as to why an upstanding citizen such as myself would have such a hard time getting across the border that only started requiring passports some three years ago.
After driving some 17 hours over the course of two days, including having no choice but to stop in the state of Ohio (wouldn’t recommend that to anyone reading this), I was QUITE ecstatic to see the bridge to Canada. Sure, I technically still had a few hours to drive before reaching my final destination, but we all know kph goes by faster than mph, so it felt like I had reached my destination.
I should know known, however, that there was certainly no way this process would ever go smoothly. Why should it? Why should a trip actually go smoother than expected, right? Who has EVER heard somebody talk about a trip and use the phrase, “Yeah, and EVERYTHING went smoothly when we traveled!” But poor naive me wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.
I really should have been tipped off that things were about to go wrong when she asked me what my license plate number was, I couldn’t remember off the top of my head, and had to get out and walk to the back of my car to see it because it was off center and couldn’t be seen in the plate-reading mirror. But I was BLIND to the potential danger.
The lady in the booth started asking the basic questions, such as how long I was staying, what I had with me, and what my occupation was. Well, looking back, I should have explained that I am not technically unemployed, I just have a week-to-week job playing church music. However, being as I just recently left my actual office/contract job, I foolishly told her that I was between jobs and staying for a little over a month.
She handed me a yellow slip with the details written on it, and told me that because of the length of my stay, I had to go into customs for a minute. She said it shouldn’t take long, which makes me wonder if she had actually ever spoken to the people working in the customs office.
I wandered in, took a number, and waited for a few minutes for the ONE customs official to work with everyone there. At this point, I started to worry, because it seemed that she was able to find a problem with literally EVERYONE who was trying to enter the country. It was like it was her job or something.
Finally, when my number was called, I walked up there and tried to be as friendly as my exhausted and nervous self could be. She was nice enough, until she finished saying hello and decided it was time to dash all of my hopes and dreams and ruin any confidence I had.
You see, the things that had happened to pave the way for my visit were somehow also the things that stood in the way of this ever working out. Me leaving my job (who generously paid me for a full month after I left) and finding a lot of musical gigs and odd jobs for extra cash meant that technically, I didn’t have a contract job to get back home to. Plus, I rent in the place where I live, so I didn’t own property I had to get back to. Not to mention that I wasn’t specific enough with the duration of my stay and didn’t have proof I had the funds to stay.
That’s right: I was honestly so focused on being thankful for things working out so well thus far, I somehow had no idea how difficult the border process was supposed to be. I can’t explain to you how defeated I felt, standing there at the border, so close to my destination, and realizing that technically, I probably shouldn’t be let in.
She even printed out a list of all of the things I should have brought with me to be allowed access. I felt a bit like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, when his teacher returned his essay with the note “You’ll shoot your eye out” written on it. It was like everyone there was laughing at me.
Thankfully, the official must have seen from my body language that I felt like a total and complete idiot. Suddenly, this lady who had been so bent on keeping me out changed entirely. She was now bent on finding a way to bypass all of this to get me in. I had to show her my bank account to prove I had all of the money I had been saving for months, and she had to call Amanda to make sure I was staying with her family. She was able to word things in their visitor database to make it sound more like I was a professional freelancer, and not just a dude who recently left his office.
As she prepared the official documents I needed to carry with me into Canada, she asked me my height. As I told her, I just instinctively straightened up, as anyone does when asked about height. She joked, “You can just tell me, you don’t have to stand up straight,” to which I replied, “Well, I figured I can at least prove THAT.” She laughed, then told me to stop making her laugh because she was “trying to be a hard-ass”, as it was her job, and I realized at that moment that she wasn’t this horrible person who was trying to keep me out. She was just trying to do her job well.
Things completely changed then. We got along just fine, and another official started asking me about Mississippi, as she actually had a friend who attended a college there. We chatted for a while, they printed out a document that said I legally HAD to leave by the date I said I would leave, and after over 2 hours, I was free to enter Canada.
So here I am now, enjoying this extended vacation, thanks to a generous “hard-ass” and a piece of paper that I have to turn in when I leave. Though, honestly, I wonder if they’ll let me keep it after I check out of Canada. I would like to frame it, to remember the time I almost couldn’t cross the friendliest border in the world.
As I was about to leave, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, thanked the official, and said, “Well….live and learn, I guess.”
(Note to self: when at the border, just go ahead and embellish. There’s no WAY it would turn out worse than this time, right?….right?)