Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Keep on pushing my love over the borderline

One thing I have to write down about our trip before I forget was the border crossing. Crossing in and out of Canada is always mildly stressful, even for those [like us] who do it a lot. Aside from the traffic jams, there's that feeling that suddenly your life is in the hands of an Official Bureaucracy, in the form of one single border guard, who can totally screw up your trip if s/he's in a bad mood. It's never happened to us [ptui, ptui] but theoretically your car can be searched from top to bottom, you can be delayed, questioned, or even turned back from Canada. [They can't turn you back from the States if you're travelling-- as we always do-- on a U.S. passport. But they can make things very unpleasant if they don't like you.] Not a big deal in the larger scheme of things, but a relatively rare experience for us 2 middle-aged pale-skinned Americans. RW has a lot of history with all this, as a dual citizen with hippie parents, so she sets the rules: don't volunteer anything; make things simple; don't mention relatives, only "friends" [or they start to wonder why you have relatives in Canada].

Tonight I was driving back, which was making me nervous as RW usually handles this transaction, the car was stuffed to the gills with camping gear and dirty clothes which would be a huge pain to unpack and pack again, and we had bought a lot of stuff in Vancouver which we would have to declare. As we approached the border we had this big debate about whether to mention the $200 worth of books [mostly for my school, but never mind] first or last, and then started stressing when we saw we were once again in the slow lane with the pissed-off-looking border guard who was making the guy in front of us open his trunk.

RW handed me the papers--we always carry all our U.S. passports when we go, plus Sarah's birth certificate--and I handed them over to the guard. He asked where we'd been and for how long and the purpose of our visit and I got all flustered, because we'd been in two places doing two different things and I suddenly blanked on the name of the place where we'd gone camping, so I was sure I sounded like an idiot who was trying to hide something. Also, the guard was slurring his words and was really hard to understand.

Then he said something like "Do you have a note from your husband giving permission to travel with the child?" And I opened my mouth and gaped because I wasn't sure where to start with that one; usually they just ask something like "Whose child is that in the back?" and we say "Both of ours" and that's that. [Though last year, for the first time, the guard asked Sarah directly, "Who are these people with you?" Fortunately she didn't choose that moment to get silly, just smiled brightly if somewhat bemusedly and chimed "Mommy and Mama!"] I know they feel they have to check for parental kidnapping but the whole thing is still unnerving.

Anyway I sat there looking stupid until RW leaned over from the passenger side and said, "We're both her parents." Then I found my voice and added helpfully, "We gave you her birth certificate. Both our names are on it." He looked totally weirded out and carefully unfolded Sarah's very-well-travelled birth certificate and squinted at it, then opened up her passport, which was issued when she was about 8 months old and has a picture of her looking like a stunned baby convict, and squinted at that, then gave us all a hard look and gave me the papers back and said in a shaky kind of way, "Okay, go ahead. Have a safe trip" and I revved out of the border station and onto the highway, forgetting to change gears until RW reminded me.

The great thing is, that hostile, homophobic, suspicious border guy was so freaked out by Sarah's 2-mom situation that he forgot to ask about the piles of stuff in the car and we didn't have to declare anything. Now I wish I'd bought more books.

What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall of that guard's station next Sunday and Monday when all the dykes and their camper vans and their kids come back from the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. He ain't seen nothing yet.


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