Picture seven lanes of traffic funneling into one lane with cars bumper to bumper, all attempting to leave on an otherwise Sunday afternoon. Driving up to the tiny booth, the wild-haired woman bore her eyes into each and every one of our souls before launching into a series of invasive questions, all while eyeing the backseat. It seemed we appeared to have a bit of free time, so they ultimately forced us to pull to the side and into the tightest garage where they immediately shut the door behind us. This is my story about our interaction with the Canadian Border Patrol while entering back into America.
The intimidation factor was there. We were asked to step out of the car and weren’t allowed to bring any of our cellphones with us. The questions were thorough, my favorite was the one where we needed to tell you, right now, “even if that meant pulling me aside to whisper it in my ear,” if we’ve ever had any problems with the police.
The slow build-up this guy put on drawing out that sentence was unbearable. And really, everyone is going to know what you did by the end of it either way, there was a poor guy being shouted at for not declaring the DUI he got in the 70’s where he wasn’t formally charged. I felt as if I was being addressed similar to a parent that knows their child has already done something wrong, but are waiting for them to confess. It’s an interesting feeling, racking your brain in attempt to figure out if you have to mention that time (or two) you were pulled over for speeding or if there was anything else you may have missed. But considering I’m not a convicted criminal, touch wood, I was in the clear.
So begins the waiting game..
To kill some time, we all attempted to figure out why exactly we had been stopped by border patrol, asked to pull our car into the world’s smallest garage for searching, and dumped into the main office with no access a bathroom. Some figured it was due to the five loose cans of Molson beer (which was dumb, but when in Montreal..) we declared, one friend swore it was the amount of snacks I piled into the back seat and onto our laps. Girl’s gotta have options.
We grew nervous as we filled out the customs forms, attempting to figure out the prices of all the t-shirts and tchotchkes we had bought back. Did prepackaged food count? What about .25 cent postcards? Do I really have to declare all of the shot glasses to border patrol because I couldn’t pick just one?
After a few moments of deliberating, we erred on the safe side and mentally went through the contents of the car. As the officer took our cards, Zach realized no one had declared the most peculiar item in the packed car, the heaps of cold, chicken nuggets. Buying three boxes of 15+ nuggets (which were more like 30 in each box) the night before we left Quebec City probably wasn’t the best idea we ever had considering there were quite a few left over. Some of the road trip members decided that icy nuggets were just as great, so off they came, wrapped up in huge tinfoil balls and into the backseat.
I’m sure whoever searched the car thought he found some sort of massive drug stash among the half-eaten bags of Doritos and granola bars, hopefully they got a good laugh out of what has so far been the most bizarre road trip snack we’ve carried.
Overall, I’m happy to see everyone at the border crossing takes their jobs seriously, it’s comforting to know you can’t just enter or leave a place with a wave of a hand and stamp in a passport (did you know they don’t actually stamp your passports when you cross the borders via car?) We were sent on our way after an hour or so, and I return to the car to find the snacks neatly stacked versus when I had left them in attempt to quickly pull my shoes and coat back on. Really, you can’t take me anywhere, but at least you know you won’t starve. After all was said and done, they never gave us a reason for picking us out of the long line of cars. I still think it was the snacks that got us.