Trapped in Canada -- 03/14/03

As I mentioned the other day, despite the sun tropism that draws so many tens of thousands of college students south during spring break (and which has been going on for decades -- the movie Where the Boys Are was released 'way back when I was in high school), my daughter chose to spend her spring break snowboarding in Vermont and then going on into Canada. At first she was going to go to Montreal, a city she has visited with friends and enjoyed, but then she decided that it had been many years since she had been to Toronto, so when she headed for Vermont her plans had been to eventually reach Toronto. While in Vermont she began to think about how far away Toronto was -- I think her mental image of the distance had been based on a couple of trips we had made to there when we lived in Binghamton, NY, but now she realized that she was twice as far away -- so she switched plans back to Montreal.

Montreal is not all that terrible a distance when you are starting out from Vermont. She said she had a good time wandering about the downtown shopping area and walking around in the old city (uh, I mean Vieux-Montréal). I've not been to Montreal in years and years and I would enjoy visiting it sometime -- but not in winter! -- I'd like to visit in summer.

She had said that she planned on getting home sometime Thursday evening. Around 6:30 the phone rang and Nancy answered it -- "What? They what!" I could hear her exclaim, then "Okay, call tomorrow morning and let us know what happens. Call your father's cell phone because I'm not sure if he's working from home or going to his office." Hmmm, I wonder what was that all about?

Nancy came back into the kitchen and hung up the phone.

"She got stopped at the border. They won't let her back into the country."

"Wait a minute -- she had her driver's license and her birth certificate?" I remembered telling her to be sure she brought her birth certificate -- actually, I've been telling her and Nancy both that they really should get passports (Nancy used to have one but it expired years ago).

"She was afraid she'd lose her birth certificate, so she only brought a photocopy and they refused to accept it at the border, told her that only an original would do."

"Where is she now?"

"Somewhere near the border. She said they found a hotel and I don't think they went all the way back to Montreal. She said she would try again in the morning, that maybe a different guard would accept the photocopy."

We ate dinner, but I'm afraid I spent more time grumbling about the INS and dumb security procedures than I did eating. Then we tried to figure out what to do, find some way of getting her birth certificate to her. I said that I thought it was too late in the evening (and we live in a small town, not a big city) to send anything overnight with Federal Express, but Nancy figured it was worth looking into. She phoned FedEx, eventually persuading the voice response unit that she needed to speak with a human being instead of a computer. The good news was that there was a FedEx pickup box in the Wakefield Post Office. The bad news was that anything put in there would not be delivered until Monday morning. Okay, it's a long shot, but let's try Airborne Express. Nope, same thing, delivery Monday morning.

My thought is that if a photocopy was not good today, it wouldn't be good tomorrow either... we had to get her birth certificate to her. As steady readers are aware, I fractured my left heel a couple of weeks ago and am wearing a moonboot-type soft cast -- which means I can't work the clutch on a standard transmission -- and our cars are all five-speed standards. I could rent a car with an automatic transmission... but it is a long drive from here to Canada and back and I'd rather not do all that driving by myself. I could have my son take the day off from school... but rental companies frown on 17 year old drivers behind the wheel of one of their cars... in fact, they all seem to prohibit anyone under 21 driving their cars (some even have higher thresholds). We could take my car, but I wouldn't want him to have to do all the driving, so I guess I'd just have to bring a left shoe with me and take off my cast and take turns driving.... most of the trip would be highway driving, so it wouldn't like I would have to use my left foot a lot.

I phoned my daughter (on her cell phone) to make plans. She was describing her problems at the border and then asked "What did you guys have for dinner?"

Huh? Why should she care what we had for dinner? She had to ask me two or three times. "Corned beef."


"That's why we had it now, while you were away...'

She began to laugh. "Ha, ha! I pulled a Charlie on you!"

Pulled a Charlie? What did she mean -- My brother -- Charlie -- has always been a practical joker (a trait he inherited from our father) -- and she has always enjoyed tales of some of the more far-fetched and outrageous stunts he had pulled -- not physical practical jokes, but long involved tales, fictitious scenarios he'd dreamed up to -- WAIT A MINUTE!

She was laughing -- "We're exiting from 95 now, be home in less than half an hour."

She had had not had any trouble at the border; she had invented the entire thing.

And we fell for it.

I think I'm going to have remind her about the story of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf.

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