In the famous words of Yogi Berra…. it’s like déjà vu all over again. I had my backpack slung over my shoulder as I dragged my overstuffed suitcase into the customs and immigration building at the US border. My friend Art had just dropped me on the Canada side and my longtime friend Lauren was waiting on the American side to pick me up. We had tickets booked to travel to LAX the next morning where Spike (another great friend) was going to collect us to bring to his ranch in the high desert. Lauren and I were looking forward to warm weather, sunshine and a couple weeks of rest and relaxation at the Roughout Ranch.
I maneuvered through the double entry doors and was greeted by an immigration officer who instructed me to put my luggage on the counter. It didn’t take but a moment to figure to out that this was going to be a long and disappointing night. It was just past 9:30 pm and I was the only pedestrian being processed. Most people drive across but I wanted to leave my car in Vancouver so Art could use it while I was away. I’m overly environmentally attuned and it seemed silly to leave my car sitting idol while Art drove an SUV that burned twice the fuel. Also, Lauren lives just 10 minutes from the border crossing so it made sense to have her pick my up since we were flying from Bellingham the next morning.
Unfortunately, a lone woman dragging excess baggage appeared suspect to the idle staff who seized the opportunity to trap me in some transgression against the country. I became the entertainment which they used to pass the last 2 and a half hours of their shift. Thus began an extensive inspection of my belongings and an equally thorough interrogation. My biggest concern was that poor Lauren was waiting outside having no idea why I was being delayed. I had no clue that she was actually sitting a few yards away (around the corner) overhearing and monitoring my ordeal. It was a twisted version of good cop, bad cop only instead of 2 interrogators there was over half a dozen officers firing questions and instructions at me.
I wasn’t able to satisfactorily answer their questions or provide adequate proof as to my residency in Canada. I had lived and worked for many years in Los Angeles and for a good portion of that time I had no legitimate visa status. In an effort to be 100% forthright I had confessed to my transgressions and by having done so cast doubt upon my intentions for this particular journey. The truth in fact was that Lauren and I had planned a nice trip south to celebrate her recent retirement from a long term position before she sought new career opportunities.
Truthfully, our agenda was primarily to have some adventure and escape from pressures of family and mundane routine of daily life.
It became clear eventually that they (US Customs and Immigration Officers) had no intention of allowing me to accompany Lauren across the line. I re-packed my belongings (things never go back in quite as nicely as they did the first time) and waited impatiently as the mountain of paperwork required to turn me back to Canada was processed. At this point Lauren was given permission to join me on the other side of the facility. I felt horrible! Our trip was ruined and still had no understanding of how to remedy the situation. The only choice was to have her drive me back to Art’s place for the night.
We stood chatting and trying to appear casual and carefree about our fate. Lauren called her husband to break the news that we were not in fact heading away on our excursion. Moments later our attention was drawn to the sole female officer as she exited an adjoining room pulling on a pair of blue latex gloves. As she snapped the wrist on one hand she called my name and asked me to join her. Holy Cow! Hadn’t I been humiliated enough? Now they were going to cavity search me?
I reluctantly followed her and was relieved to discover that I was not going to have to “drop my drawers” but was simply a procedural processing and finger printing. Now, normally I would have objected to being printed, but.. it seemed harmless compared to the concept of having a finger shoved up my butt. It wasn’t until Lauren and I were half way back to Vancouver that I told her about my initial fears when I noticed that blue glove. She laughed and admitted that the same idea had occurred to her.
Today we re-booked our flights for California. Hopefully we’ll get farther south next time than the 49th parallel. In the spirit of keeping our adventure alive we planned an impromptu trip to Victoria on the island. Vegas and the Mojave will just have to wait another week for us.