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Border Crossing from Hell: Part One

by Tyler

Stuck Truck Update: A cold front rolled in last night, answering Tara's silent plea to Mother Nature. As we slept soundly, the rain stopped, the temperature dropped, and the rutted, muddy ground where our camper was stranded froze solid. As a result, we managed to get ourselves of Deanne's clearing without the slightest bit of trouble.

The fastest route from The Strawbale Studio in Michigan to our place in Vermont is to cut through Canada. We've passed through this particular border without issue before, so neither of us is prepared for the reception we're about to receive. Maybe travel trailers and trucks raise more ire than our usual mode of transport, the inconspicuous Honda Civic? Could it be that our meathead border agent has some anger management issues? Whatever the case, several hours of un-pleasantries await us.

The crossing begins with the usual inquisition about where we've come from, where we are headed, and what we are doing when we get there. For reasons unknown, our guard can't stop huffing, puffing and scoffing at each of our straightforward, honest responses. We've had our share of interesting border crossings, but we've never met an official so flippant and needlessly hostile.

Eventually, the jerkoff decides he's probed into our affairs deeply enough, and sends us to the immigration office for yet more questioning. After we park, two more guards arrive, instruct us to open the trailer, and command us to wait inside. As they escort us into the office, we warn them not to trip over the sickles and scythe, and then they begin tearing open all of our painstakingly packed boxes like a pack of hungry hyenas.

While waiting inside, we witness:

  • A well-dressed Canadian lady having clothing she purchased in the US seized because she didn't claim it properly. The officials inform her that she'll have to cut Canada in on the action to the tune of $1,000+ if she wants them back.

  • A sober man denied entrance because of a DWI that happened over 15 years ago.

  • A businessy-looking guy being arrested, cuffed, and then fined more than $400 for having less than an ounce of marijuana with him. The officers tell him to cheer up—apparently if this happened at the US border, he'd be looking at FIVE YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON. o_0

With every minute that passes, the increasing odiousness of this process has us seething more and more. How do these "officials" sleep at night? Do we live in a civilized, free society, or a police state? At one point during the exhaustive search of our entire home, a small glass canister of white powder is called into question.

The border agent is practically frothing at the mouth as he delivers a very leading, "WHAT IS THISS?!"

Seriously? What do they expect us to say? "Oh snap. You found my heroin?"

"It's baking soda", Tara replies, with the flared nostrils and raised eyebrow that mean she's refraining from finishing her thought with, "you moron."

When, at last, we are released, we find that our camper has been completely ransacked. Each of our boxes have been opened, their contents spilling all over the place. It's a complete and total disaster. With clenched teeth, Tara shakes her head and grumbles, "I am going to flip my shit if I find a fucking boot print on the comforter my mom got us for Christmas." Thankfully, there aren't any.

At long last, we're allowed into Canada. Thanks for the warm welcome, friendly neighbors to the north.

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I can relate. I've been traveling for over 30 years and have met with all kinds of border officials, including those of so-called "dodgy" places like Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. I've only ever had a bad experience *once*. That was in Canada. I came in for a regular business trip, on a scheduled flight from LHR. I was grilled for three hours. They stopped short of a body cavity search. Why they picked on me I have no idea to this day. Very unpleasant experience. It's hard to imagine a more benign country than Canada - but their border officials are something else.
Posted by Tony on February 1st, 2013 at 4:38 AM
As a canadian (but from the province of Quebec), I'm so disgust of what they've done to you, and I'm really sorry.
For myself, each spring when we go to Bar Harbor, Me, we always find that the guys US side are always very friendly and welcoming compare to those from Canada...but nothing as bad as what you experienced, fortunately.
But once you go through, you can still consider us good neighbors, I hope?
Note I haven't read part 2...and not sure I want to...:(
Posted by David on February 1st, 2013 at 12:33 PM
what a crappy way to enter canada! wish we would have known you were coming through... would have tried to make it up to you by hosting you at our place in hamilton. :)
Posted by reuben on February 2nd, 2013 at 8:36 PM
Tony-- It's nuts, ever since we wrote this, people have been coming out of the woodwork to talk about how horrible the Canadian border officials are. Maybe it's just a selection bias, but man, we are not alone!

David-- There is no need to apologize, and of course we think of you as good neighbors--in our experience the government does not represent the people.

reuben-- Thanks! We'll be passing your way once or twice more before we're fully settled in Vermont. We'd love to hang out, maybe next time?
Posted by Tyler on February 4th, 2013 at 8:09 AM
Sorry to all fellow Canadians for reinforcing a cliche, but, as a Canadian, I'd like to apologize for your bad experience visiting my country.

Salut en passant David!
Posted by Magictofu on February 4th, 2013 at 9:21 AM