Wednesday, January 13, 2010

to serve and protect...

Living near the 49th parallel has it's benefits. Things like a quick trip to Bath & Bodyworks...or the ability to pick up parcels across the line rather than pay shipping to Canada...are a few that come to mind. One can zip back and forth across the border with ease...right?
There was a time when that was the case...and as long as we avoided peak traffic times, we could be back and forth in no time. In my teen years, we went across the border often...just to go rollerskating...or visit Shakey's Pizza. No passports, birth certificates or letters from our parents were required...and no questions were asked. We live in a new age!

Yesterday I had my day all planned out. I was on my way to the airport to pick up my sister...but left myself one hour to make a slight detour across the border to pick up a parcel. That should be plenty of would think.

Thinking I might have some time to sip coffee while waiting in queue at the border...I stopped by Tim's on the way.

As it turned out...there was next to no line-up...and before I knew it...I was face to face with the US customs agent. I had my passport ready...and told him my destination was the parcel pick-up depot one block from the border. He took my passport into his booth...then informed me that my car had been chosen for a 'random' search. I was required to pull into the designated spot and go inside.

Oh...oh! By now I had a sinking feeling...wondering how long this might all take...and if I would make it to the airport on time to meet the incoming West Jet flight. I grabbed my coffee and went inside...where I was informed there was no food or drink allowed...and so my coffee was deposited in the nearest trash can (I'm in the USA I must not call it a garbage can). Next I was required to fill out a form...and admit that I had visited a dairy farm in the last two weeks (it's really hard to get around that one!). Then I was asked all kinds of questions about what might or might not be in my car. Good question...since I hadn't really checked it out too carefully. Was I carrying any knives or sharp items? I hesitated a moment, because I might just have a nail file...did that count? Oh...and I had a crochet hook. By now I was wracked with guilt...and sure I had broken all kinds of laws. How much US cash was I carrying? None. How about Canadian cash? I proceeded to empty out my wallet right there and then...just to be sure I wasn't giving any wrong answers. My mouth was dry (I really needed that coffee)...and my palms were damp. Once the interrogation was complete...I was asked to take a seat and remain there while my vehicle was inspected. Other than CD's, sunglasses, and a few sundry items in the console...the car was I'm not exactly sure where they looked...or what for ...but after some time, they returned to inform me that I was a free man woman and could enter the United States of America. Oh joy! I quickly hustled off to Ship Happens...picked up the parcel that was waiting...and returned to the border once again. The Canadian customs officer didn't seem to think I looked suspicious at all...and allowed me back into my country with barely a second glance.

I took the back roads to the airport...and arrived just in time to meet my sister from Manitoba. Whew! Here's my advice...don't plan a quick trip across the border if you have any appointments you must keep. And wait until you return to Canada before picking up your Tim Horton's coffee!

And, if you happen to live in the USA...I can assure you that your border guards are doing a fine and thorough job of serving and protecting you all!

Have a great day...


  1. Judy..happy to hear that all went well in the end..and a good thing you know about the back roads!!
    Too bad about the coffee..

  2. Really too bad about that coffee, as I know how much you enjoy your java!
    I'll have to ask for details on that parcel depot - sounds very preactical!

  3. Oh wow. . that hasn't happened to us YET. .so it really is a random search then. .you look so innocent too. . .
    Good to know the border guards are doing a fine job.

  4. Aren't they just! They are the most humorless pains in the **** that one could encounter. Don't crack a joke; don't say that you live in Poland (my daughter did at the time — Poland, Maine); don't be named John Kennedy traveling with Tom Sawyer. Ha! I'd like to apologize for the coffee. Losing a full cup of Tim Horton's coffee is awful.

  5. we went down before Christmas for a quick trip to pick up a package. soon as we crossed into the US, was saw this HUGE line. turns out Baker had opened that day for skiing and our 10minute trip took almost an hour to sit in the line to come back home again lol

    glad you got to the airport in time

  6. Oh boy you had quite the experience! I'm cracking up about the name of that parcel pick up point :0)
    We have a friend that was denied entrance to Canada on Saturday. She was going to do volunteer work with a group off Vancouver Island. The group (Esperanza) pulled the strings needed to get her ok'd for her 6 week volunteer she was allowed across the border yesterday...

  7. I have also been a victim of a "random" search...but that was before 9/11.

    Too Too bad about the coffee.

    Glad that it all worked out in the end and I hope you have a good visit.

  8. Funny how all of our possible misdemeanors come to mind at a time like this, isn't it? I'm glad to hear that all went well, other than the loss of your coffee.

    I just learned about Ship Happens at Christmas from my family in Chilliwack. Sounds like a great option.

  9. Good to know...but sorry about your coffee (from one coffee lover to another).

    Have fun with your sis!

  10. How interesting! I just heard on the news this morning that all security between the US and Canada is being tightened due to a terror plot discovered, against the US, coming through Canada. So, now I learn that someone who I know(well, am learning to know) has been personally affected by this. I can't imagine what you must have been feeling, although losing a cup of amazing coffee would have to had been disappointing. You had me sitting on every word in this post.(of course you always do).

  11. Now I am wondering what would of happened if you had had a couple of calves in the back seat of your vehicle.

    Do give that whirl sometime when you have time on your hands. It would make a great blog post, and liven up the day for the border guards to boot.

    If it makes you feel any better...I've spent many hours as a US citizen stuck at the Mexican border trying to get home to San Diego. Dogs would be sniffing my car, people with mirrors circling my car,I had to get, remember everything I bought and did while I was in Tia Juana and that was YEARS before 9/11 happened. I can't imagine what it would be like now.

  12. Oh Judy, that is too funny...
    I know the last time I went past, they asked who was the sole owner of my vehicle...I said, "ME" and then I realized it was in my husband's name."
    Too bad you couldn't of text me. I would of been laughing at this end.
    Or may of been ready to bail out out.
    I always give myself plenty of time when border crossing just for a five minute pickup...Yup, keep your coffee on hand plus a thermos next time.

  13. Thank God they are doing their job, Judy, for there are many that want to destroy us! I feel sad that you were burdened with this inconvenience but it is sadly a new world and I have a feeling there have been threats made lately that have the US border guards very nervous. Since they fear terrorists may have recruited regular civilians they have to be careful to check everyone.

    Every day I live with the fear of another 9-11, or worse, happening in NYC. It is our new reality since we are a big target, yet our lives must go on.

    I can only imagine how tight security will be for the upcoming Olympics!

    I do feel bad about your coffee... I wish they let you drink that first.

  14. I've been the one that had that random check as well. I'ts a crazy feeling when they have you sit inside and search your car without you being there. The funny thing was that there was a young guy just going off about being held up - to the point that they threatened to lock him up... he suddenly stopped and looked at me and said, "Now don't you just look like the suspicious kind? Why are you here?" I think it made him feel better. Felt like we were both in jail together... a rowdy kid and a Grammy.

  15. Border and immigration experiences - now there is one subject where I have a world of stories to share with you. I believe a requirement is to have no sense of humor on the job. The advantage I have found living on the southern US border is that the officials here have so much practice that they don't take as long to be thorough. Last time I crossed into Manitoba by car at Emerson, it took the Canadian official an hour to pass the eleven cars in front of mine! Here I waited two hours last time, but there were thousands of vehicles in front of me. It has changed alot since crossing back from roller-skating in Lynden to home in Chilliwack as a teenager, stressed out about whether they would discover I had bought a (cheap) necklace and was "importing" it back into Canada! Have fun drinking coffee with the sisters this week! Maybe Tim's even has something to convert your brother into a coffee user???

  16. Great post...I chuckled all the way through it....nervous chuckling that is, just imagining how you must have been feeling. When taking trips abroad when our kids were young it was always me that got picked out to be searched (these days all get searched)and no matter how much I knew I was carrying nothing wrong I always felt really guilty! Such a shame about the coffee, but glad you made the airport in time

  17. It's amazing to me how a few terrorists can change millions of lives in one quick moment. I do think we have to be careful, but I think there are better ways of picking out those who could be suspect. Several years ago, my 78yr. old mother was dying of cancer. Her one wish was to see my daughter get married out East. She was in a wheelchair and could hardly stand. She previously had 2 artificial hips. Airport security did a full body check, making her take off her shoes, remove her belt,without any assist from us. Really--this was someone they really thought could take down the plane?? They could have at least let us help her. Sorry for your inconvenience.

  18. What a pain! Having to throw away a perfectly good coffee. Please, call it a trash can or anything else you'd like to:)

  19. Hi Judy,
    FYI - I'm from the USA and I say "garage cans" more than I say "trash cans". We are planning an RV trip to Alaska this summer and will have to cross into Canada and the USA several times. There's a good possibility we will have our truck/RV searched too. My hubby said there is a limit to the amount of over the counter sinus pills I can take with me and we aren't sure what we can take in the RV for food (either fresh or frozen). So wish us luck too! It is a different world out there now with these crazy loon terrorists. Have a nice day!

    Teacup Lane (Sandy)

  20. Thanks for the tips -especially the TIm Horton's one - wouldn't want to waste a good coffee :)

    Your little grandgirlie is a darling!

  21. A good friend of mine gave me the link to your blog so I had to come check it out! :) She is a Langley girl and I am in we have that "Fraser Valley" connection! I ever relate to this post! My hubby and I crossed the border one time for a "date" thinking it would be fun to go out alone (without the kids) for a little walk. We picked the USA...funny, but true. Well...the "random check" thing happened to us. Yes, you feel a bit like you must have done something wrong...but no ~ just routine checks. You are right...never be in a hurry and you will be ok!

    Have a lovely day!

    P.S. The pictures in your first post are beautiful! Isn't BC the BEST??

  22. Yes, so much fun right? This happens every time, yes, every time, Adam and I go across the border, because he is not a Canadian citizen. We have to go inside while our car is cleaned out, and fill out forms, and also PAY money! It's crazy. But we're used to it. The nervous feelings have long ago been replaced by annoyance for us. And I agree with Aunt Bev - don't even THINK about cracking a joke. But, I have to say, it's still worth it...We also have a PO box in Sumas. So worth it! They even forward packages to us in Australia, when a company will not ship outside the US.

  23. What a perfectly hilarious story......but one that is all too true.

    talk about their paranoia!!!

    it's no wonder that sumas is virtually a ghost town....they make it SO unappealing to go down and spend a few.


  24. I realize the the border patrol is doing a fine job of protecting us - but my goodness -there has to be a limit. When we go to BC we are treated courteously, with a friendly smile, while the Canadians do their job swiftly and efficiently. But coming back to our own country - you think you had a hard time - you should see what they do the US citizens. Surly, unkind and sometimes vicious - every single word out of your mouth is questioned - over and over - and you are automatically suspected of evil deeds and underhanded activities. This is not just my experience - it is almost unanimous among people I've talked to. We sometimes avoid the glories of going to BC and all it has to offer because of the hassle at the US border. And don't get me started about going to Pt.Roberts - more US borders to cross and more unfriendly and sullen border patrol.

    And then there is the bus station in Bellingham - wow - the border patrol loves to go there and harass people - especially those taking the bus from Bellingham and going south. They've been known to dump suitcases onto the floor to search them - humiliating.

    But enough of that - at least you made it to your destination - and I hope you got more coffee soon.


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson