Monday, June 3, 2013

Living near the Border...................

Good Tuesday Morning everyone :)

Thought I'd share some memories of cross border shopping with you all!

When I was young ( really young - in the 60's little girl young ) we used to cross the border into New York State quite spend the day at a beach  - there'd be a big old cooler in the trunk filled to the brim with sandwiches and kool aid and off we'd go.
BUT always - and I mean always - at some point in the day - the beach was interrupted for a fast shopping spree - where kids got brand new running shoes and the old dirty flip flops we were instructed to wear were discarded in the nearest garbage can.  Mothers picked up new purses - Fathers stocked up on alcohol and the now empty cooler would be filled to the brim with the new stash. ( cigarettes being the most important haul of all )
And off we would go to sit in a long line up at the border to get back home....................being told over and over " just keep you mouth shut when we get to the booth "
It was terrifyingly exciting - my brother and I always felt we were within inches of being arrested - our hearts would be pounding as the " Officer " would ask the standard questions
" anything to declare ? "
" no, no - we just spent the day at the beach "
and my brother and I would give the obligatory smiles and try to hide our feet as best we could - lest we all be put in prison....................
After many many years of this - you get brave - you throw caution to the wind - and sometimes you'd come back with more and more -
And the heart beating got stronger with every trip.
But if the truth be known - no one gave a damn - not the American side as you entered -
" have a great day at the beach folks - wink wink nudge nudge
Or the Canadian side on your return
" hope you had a great day at the beach folks - wink wink nudge nudge
Because cross border  anything is very common when you live close to one - Americans came for the
night life here - we went for the prices there.
More often then not jokes were flying on either end - it really was a very open border with a lot of traffic on either side coming and going.

For many many years John and I travelled to Manhattan almost monthly to visit New York clients.
We were registered in the computer because of so many trips - so usually we were just waved through
after a couple of questions.
I would usually joke with the " officers " feeling totally at ease - since I had been doing this all my life - John
however was always a little nervous ( perhaps because he's from England - and not having as much experience with it ) but he would always warn me not to act so " familiar " and I would laugh at him - tell him
he was being ridiculous - we're the same  - it's just the States and Canada - no big deal.
It wasn't like entering East Germany and West Germany after all.

Then 9/11 happened.
And both sides changed.
The Canadians were suspicious about why you were going to the States.
The Americans were suspicious about why you were going to the States.
Both sides were in an ( understandably ) acute sense of paranoia - plain and simple.

And then this happened on one trip.

Officer - What is your business in the United Stated of America sir
John - I have appointments to see customers in Manhattan
Officer - What is the nature of your business Sir
John - We are fabric agents
Officer - Are you bringing anything with you
John - Yes we have fabric samples - of no commercial value
Office - I will be the judge of that Sir - not you
Suzan pipes in - They have NO commerical value - they're scraps of fabric -
Suzan tries to be funny - Unless we sell them to Mattel to make Barbie Clothes with
Suzan smiles - like he's joking
I get out of the car - kind of still smiling - because we're not terrorists after all - surely he knows that?
We're registered as coming here constantly
And then 2 officers escort us into a building that I've never been inside of in my life.
And we're told to sit and wait.
John is sweating bullets by now - I was just getting a little aggravated
So here we are sitting directly in front of a counter actually - and a voice comes over the loudspeaker
- Mr. John Wood please step up to the counter
I start laughing again - I mean the man could have leaned over and whispered for John to step up and he would have heard him..............
I get a very stern look - and am asked
- is something funny M'am
- Yes, I reply, actually I DO find it funny - because we're sitting right.....................
I'm cut right off -
- This is NOT a laughing matter
I get up to join John - and I'm told to return to my seat
I get up to go to the bathroom - and 2 officers approach me
- You have to stay here - one of them says
- I'm only going to the washroom - I reply
- Wait there, one of them responds and COMES OUT WITH A FEMALE OFFICER
who is instructed to join me in the washroom.
Uh - no thanks - think I'll hold it in and risk peeing all over the seats thank you very much

They keep questionning John - and telling him to go sit back down
and every time he comes back - I say in a very loud voice - WELL THIS IS JUST RIDICULOUS
and John keeps mumbling at me to shut my mouth - ( much like our parents warned us to do when we were crossing the border as kids )
John says - I've always told you not to act so familiar with them
Suzan says - Listen - this has never happened to me in my life - it must have something to do with you 

I stood up at one point to go outside for some air - and 3 or 4 of them come over to me and advised me to sit right down again..................
Does it work?
I'm furious now - really livid -
We're going to miss a very important meeting and we've now been sitting there for over an hour.

And finally after a couple of more hours of sitting there, a story comes out -

Officer - Mr. Wood, we see that you have 3 children here in the States that you have not provided support for.
John - Pardon me?
Officer - repeats the line and adds - " it's a federal offence "
John stammers - I think there's been some kind of a mistake Sir - my kids live in Canada
Officer - maybe so - but not the 3 you have here
LMAO............I'm almost rolling on the floor at this point -
John's terrified
I can see it in his face
I get up and walk to the counter
John Wood is a very common name Sir - you've obviously got a case of mistaken identity
I jokingly tell them it concerns me very much - that if what they are saying is true - they can keep him
They don't get the humor
At all.

At the 4 hour point - they call his name on the loudspeaker again
LOL - sorry I keep laughing when I picture this
They tell him they've made a mistake with the paternity thing but have found out he has a speeding ticket that's outstanding................
We pay it - and leave.

No apology is offered for the 5 hours we sat in that cold stark waiting room.

We get in the car - and John starts screaming and yelling at me
- There are times when it's not appropriate to joke
- You never know when to stop
- They could have arrested you
Suzan says - For what?  For making a joke? Don't be so ridiculous!

As we were just getting ready to exit the Palisades Parkway - I see a police car
behind us turn on their lights
They pull us over
Officer - you're swaying a bit Sir - please step out of the car
I get out of the car with John - and start rambling on about what we've been through
and how a 5 and a half hour trip is now fast approaching 12 hours and that we just live in
Montreal - and how we have NOT had a drink and how.................
And the officer gives me a big smile - and says -
That's a rough day you've had M'am..............
Sorry for your troubles.............
I go to Montreal a lot - I love it there............
Have a good trip...........

Thanks SO much - I gratefully tell him - as we get back in the car.............

John says - I guess this is going to be the new " norm "
Suzan says - Well this is going to be a " 2 pair of shoes trip " let me tell you
Suzan says - and about those 3 kids?  what exactly are you doing on these trips
when I'm not with you?  start talking Mister.....................

Have a great day all!


  1. Hi Suzan!!!

    We go down to Seattle 3 to 4 times a year and I'm like you, I get talking to the guy about the day we're going to have or the day we just had.

    My hubby and kids always tell me to keep quiet when we approach the window, but, it never works, I pipe up all the time.

    One day I can see us going through what you went through.

    Have a great week!!!


  2. We went to Canada when I lived in Seattle and the customs officers scared me every single time! I think my problem is that I am intimidated by authority figures. Strangely, we shopped when we went to Victoria. I guess because the exchange rate was so good and our dollars were doubled in Canada. I declared everything because I follow all the rules and am too neurotic not to!!

  3. I couldn't help but laugh through the whole story...although I'm sure it wasn't so funny for you at the time. Well, maybe just a little, at least on your end! LOL... Those officers certainly did overreact, but I suppose after 9/11 many of them couldn't help it. The police officer in the end must have helped make an unpleasant experience a little better.

  4. The curse of the common name! At one point, I worked with two other women with my name. Getting the right paycheck was often a challenge.

  5. lol, that was great! Well probably not for you guys! My ex encountered the same problem going fishing up there after 911. They finally quit going because it was such a hassle.

  6. Oh, Suzan. My heart goes out to you guys. The responsibility now placed on border patrol agents affects everybody in a nasty way. Did they at least let you call your clients?

    If we ever get to meet I'm going to bring a loudspeaker and talk into that even if you're just across the table. For fun.

  7. Wait...what? No cavity search? Incompetent boobs.

  8. Oh my gosh, it's SOSOSOSOSOSOSO annoying when things like that happen. My daughter gets searched ALL OF THE TIME at the airport. 13 yrs. old. We joke about it, but it's annoying that it happens 90% of the time, what the heck???

    Sorry to hear John's been holding out on you w/the kids... oh wait, never mind, that was a mixed up identitity, buwhwha. It's not funny, not a bit, but really... you'd think they'd research a little better with a name that IS so common. Geez.

  9. Your story was funny to me but that's just my sense of humor. After 911 I was flying out of Boston and my daughter took me to the airport with her 3 small children, the baby in a stroller. We were taken aside and she was instructed to change the baby's diaper. Children are targeted because to the normal person like you and me it's unimaginable anyone would try to use a child to smuggle anything.

    We now live in a world where people are not paid to use common sense or think for themselves. They're paid to follow orders without question. My question is 'who makes the rules?'

  10. If nothing else at least John gives us all something to laugh at!!! Oh my word this is too good!

  11. I am a U.S. citizen, I went to France in December 2001 and came back in January 2002. I could not believe how I was treated when going through customs! The agent was so rude and treated me as if I were a criminal. Yeah, dang 9-11.

    1. I guess we all have horror stories with customs now...............
      Although terrorists, it would appear, have no problem hopping from country to country :(

  12. Wow if I tell you the stories my daughter goes through at customs. She works under a nafta visa. Hours of interrogation at times and not one question at other times???? I guess it all depends on if the customs officer is having a bad day. A couple of times she missed her flight because of it and they don't care. When it comes to borders we are all guilty until proven innocent. It is all so scary at times when we discover how some characters slip through. I guess they are just doing a job. Not a job I would like.

  13. Suzan,
    You made my day. This is the best story ever. I can so see you during all of this!!!!!! Thanks for the great story when life happens. It made me smile.

  14. OMG-I can so picture it. I think I need to write the story about the airport police thinking we were drug dealers because MyHero set off all the alarms. It is just plain annoying to me- but they can sure intimidate you. GREAT story, Suzan!!!! xo Diana

  15. What a story. At first I was laughing but truth be told I was riveted nervous at the same time. I would have been you for sure and my John would've acted like yours. Your stories always grab my attention for sure!


  16. Another story for the books. One day you'll need to string them together and actually write a book - The Tales of John and Suzan.....

    As for immigration....we immigrated from England when I was 4 but didn't become a citizen until I was in my late 20's. My ex-husband's family was in the Eastern Townships and with each visit we would hop over the border to do some shopping. Every time they would ask where we were born and every time my husband would lie and say Canada. I freaked out every time. Sweating, nausea, so sure I would be arrested. Was so glad when I could finally say I was a Canadian.

    1. LMHO - if I told you the things I've come across the border with - silly things that I probably never had to hide...............
      I remember once stuffing a boot up a sleeve of each coat ( raglan sleeves lol ) and I can clearly remember looking the Agent square in the eye - and telling him - " nothing up my sleeve sir !!! "
      My girlfriend was almost dying beside me...............

  17. Good Lord!!! My husband is leaving for Belgium in a few weeks. His first trip out of the US ever... he's a little nervous, not knowing what to expect. I'll just let him read this -haha!

  18. it was the loudspeaker Amy - too funny for words - honest to God - the guy was directly in front of us LMHO - I could still fall on the floor over it................
    makes you wonder how all the terrorists seems to get into any country they want though, doesn't it?

  19. Unfortunately i would be the joking laughing frustrated wife too. And probably would get thrown in jail, but for what? Well nothing of course but they can do whatever they want.

  20. Geeze Suzan....what a pain! When I lived in Montana, we used to go to Canada all the time to buy cough syrup and asprin with codeine, because there's nothing like a good nights sleep when you are sick. There is no border patrol at the U.S. of Danni. (But we might want to do a DNA test on John....just in case!!!!)

  21. Poor John! That was scary and hilarious at the same time. I can picture you LYaO and John giving you the stink eye the whole time. You can't make this stuff up!

    1. Ok Tina - I could still split a gut over it all - seriously - the loudspeaker was out of a sit com............
      too too funny

  22. oh my i am so sorry for your stop at the border. When we were much younger and our kids were grade school jr high age we went off to Bristish Columbia for a soccer tournament for our son. we even took one of his teammates.

    The week before the border trip, we had gone to our local county fair and our youngest daughter wanted a pink feather hair clip at one of the cowboy hat booths. So being simple minded, medical people, and never indulging int he funny weed, we thought it was a clip on for cowboy hats or little girls hair.. fairy feathers I called them....whatever you wanted to make of it...right?

    ALl was well entering canada---they just waved us on through. NOT SO FAST renentering the good old state of washington. We were in the middle of the team caravan and everyone was passed on through. They stopped us and here John is unshaven, me my hair in pigtails and blue jean overalls, the kids all in PJS---it was 8 am----and they asked us our business and we told them.

    The officer said "which one of you owns the roach clip on the mirror-----our daughter had taken it out of her hair the day we went through the border and thought it looked pretty hanging from the rearview mirror. The officer passing us into Canada didnt blink twice about it.

    I said 'our daughter does. He said, "I hardly believe that. Which daughter looking at all these young faces. Our 9 yr old (shes 36 now) steps up and says "that is my hair feather"
    Sir can you pull your van over here and park please. I will have to ask you to come into the building together.
    What what did we do? It is illegal to bring drug paraphanelia into the United States sir.

    I open my mouth and say WHat are YOU talking about we let our daughter by this with her OWN allowance at the fair last week to wear in her hair. Its a fairy feather."
    Please pull over there and step out of the van and bring your drug paraphanalia with you.

    we were led into their building and interrogated individually and asked pretty much the same thing why did we have a roach clip and could they search our van for drugs. We both denied any drugs and of course they said we can take your van apart piece by piece and let you find your own way home if we want. We an even find social workers to take your children from you if said drugs are found on you or in your vehicle.. We offered to let them search us and our van at that point....not our kids.

    I was crying and we both told them to call our hospital where we both worked for references and they did do that. Both our managers laughed and said we were the last people on earth to have drugs and it sounded like cathy having fairy feathers in her daughers hair.

    BUT we were held for several hours with an officer outside our van protecting the kids or waiting for them to light one up I think. When they all started crying and wanting us and needing to go to the bathroom they finally let us go. I asked if we could have her 'fairy feather' back and I thought John would kill me. I asked the officer to go explain to our daughter why he was taking her hair feather and he gave me a dirty look and said you better leave NOW.
    We got back home and had all sort of phone calls from the other teams and of course we had to explain to out son's teammate's parents about our 'almost drug bust' at the candadian border. ANd yes many of our friends howled at the fact we never smoked pot and had no idea those were pot holders or roach clips. We grew up in the 50's and 60's and managed to stay away from drugs.........still do......but it was pretty scary at first.


Due to a large amount of spam ( that I'm tired of going back to posts and deleting ) I'll be using comment moderation from now on !!!
Can I beat these spammers at their own game? Probably not - but I'm going
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