Tag Archives: border

Border guards

I always seem to flummox them to some degree. See, in my head it makes perfect sense that I am going to NY to see my husband, and that my kids are back in Montreal with their father. Apparently, if you are not HSM it is not that obvious what the family dynamic is!!

On my way down to NY on Friday the border guard looked like he was just about old enough to start shaving, but was very stern and asked me a whole lot of questions. Then he asked me what I do. What do I do? I am a mommy – I always say this proudly. (Someone once asked why I don’t tell the border guards I am a writer – I said, my writing career isn’t paying yet. They pointed out, however, that I also don’t get paid to be a mom. Hmm). So saying one is a mommy leads to questions about why I am travelling alone. Where are the children? I am always so tempted to say “kids, what kids?” but one does not joke at the border.

I need to work out a brief paragraph that explains the situation, without the border guard getting all confused, and me tripping over my words to try to explain. I came up with this “Visiting my husband – second marriage. He lives in NY, I live in Montreal. Kids from my first marriage live with me and are visiting with their father this weekend, he lives in Montreal too”. Coherent enough, right? But who can be coherent when you have just been grilled about what your husband does for a living and where and how much money does he make and do you have any weapons on you or 10,000 dollars?

The dude finally understood, wished me luck, and have a nice day.

I cannot wait till this border crossing thing is over and I don’t have to deal with heart-in-mouth syndrome on a regular basis.

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Brief Update

I couldn’t not post about this. Yesterday as Empress CaresALot and I were crossing the border I was asked a question I had never been asked before. The border guard takes the passports and checks everyone out. He looks at mine, and asks me if the picture really is of me. I say yes. He says “what happened?” – I told him that I had lost a significant amount of weight since the picture and grown my hair. He kept looking from the photo back to me. Finally he asked me to show him my ears. Say what? That’s right, he asked me to pull back my hair and show him my ears. I had to turn my head this way and that. My ears?!! So strange…..

Then he went to the trunk, rooted through the suitcases a little bit, and sent us on our merry way.

As the KoD put it, how eerie!

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Yesterday – my troubles didn’t seem so far away!

I spent the weekend in Monsey with my KoD. We had an awesome Shabbat and a very meaningful Yom Kippur together, our first. For the first time since I can remember I made it to shul for shacharit and stayed till 2.15pm! I didn’t have the caffeine headache which was awesome.

Yesterday, I planned to leave first thing. Man tracht und Gott lacht. (Man plans and God laughs). Yep, you guessed it, car wouldn’t start. Again. Nightmare. I needed to get back to my boys AND we had our immigration medicals today and I didn’t want to push them off.

We had a couple of local boys over to build the sukkah so together with the KoD they tinkered and pushed and rolled and tinkered with the car some more. I was fast running out of time – I needed to be in Montreal (I had typed “home” but that would be Monsey). The engine just wouldn’t turn over. The battery was fine. The engine just wouldn’t catch. So frustrating.

So of course you all remember the story with my new Town and Country not being allowed into Canada? Yeah. So I have this amazingly awesome car that I could be driving instead of a 16 year old pain in the neck – but I can’t bring it in to Canada. Time is tick tocking away.

After much discussion we decide that I will see if I can drive my Town and Country to Plattsburgh, leave it there, and have a friend pick me up and drive me the rest of the way, over the border. I sent out a mass email to all my Montreal people and within minutes my phone was ringing with people offering to help in different capacities. It was truly humbling to feel the outpouring of support from my friends. This is what Community is about.

I loaded up the van and off I went. Thankfully I had an uneventful drive. It was great listening to Sirius comedy radio all the way up. I arrived in Plattsburgh and went to the Days Inn, where previously they had allowed us to park overnight in their parking lot when we had the initial issues with the van. Pffffft. The manager was not rude, just ungracious. Pay for a room and you can leave the van here. Go park at the Price Chopper.

I texted the KoD – he told me to try a different hotel / motel. I drove to the Best Western. Parked the car, went in. Two ladies were behind the desk. I turned on the tears as best I could, explained the situation to them, there were some other Canadians there who commiserated with me about the Canadian border laws – and the Best Western said “sure, no problem”.

I sat in the car and waited for my ride to arrive. Within hours I was safe and sound getting squishes from my boychikles. I put them to bed. And started to work on getting us back to Plattsburgh, so we can be in Monsey for Sukkot.

I fell asleep with a major headache and woke up with it still. I hate not knowing what the plan is. One passenger with one suitcase is so much easier to pick up, than five, with suitcases and sleeping bags and stuff. It’s now 7.44 am and I am hoping the be on our way to NY within the next 24 hours. Bus and train is out as there is no way I can manage all of us and our stuff. I tried renting a car – either they don’t do one way rental, OR their drop off point is 20 miles away from where I need to be and they don’t have pick up service. OR they have no cars available.

Right now it is too early to call private car services – I really don’t want to have to pay a lot of money, but it looks like that is our only option at this point in time. I just want to get to our car safe and sound, and get the boys to Monsey in one piece. And perhaps not go broke (or insane) in the process.

And last night, as I am sitting in the car in Plattsburgh the KoD called me. He figured he would try the van one more time. (We were waiting for mechanic to call back). Yep, darn thing started. I should have been happy to hear this news but it just made me cry that much harder. Why could it not have started in time for me not to have to go crazy in order to get back?? I know God has His master plan, but please…..clue me in sometime?

Anyhow, laundry awaits, we have to prepare for our medicals and pack up. We will get to NY, its just a question of how. I have faith.

Silver lining, silver lining, silver lining, silver lining……

ETA (10 am) I have managed to sort out a ride for us. Mr CarMan once again steps up to the plate and he doesn’t even want me to cover his gas money. The world has some special people in it!!

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Threatening Borders

 

I seem to have issues with crossing the USA/Canada border. It was just a short while ago my vehicle was refused entry to Canada. Friday morning I was again detained at the border – this time entering the States.

 

As you know I have borrowed a car from a friend, my neighbour Mr CarMan. I have a signed letter from him giving me permission to drive it into the States, I have the registration and insurance documents. All 100% above board and kosher.

 

I took the littlest prince to school on Friday morning and drove the 45 miles or so to the border on the way to go see my KoD for Shabbat. Luckily there was hardly any traffic and I made good time. There was one car in front of me as I pulled up to the border. It was 9 am.

 

The border guard takes my passport, asks me the usual questions. Then he asked me whose car I was driving. Now, I am sure some people would lie, but I can never remember my lies, so I don’t lie. It’s just so much safer that way. As soon as I said I was driving my friend’s car he started acting all suspicious. “Does he know you have his car? Why did he lend you his car?” The dude must have asked me ten times where I live and where I was going – like my answer is going to change?!

 

He walked around the van, opened the trunk, opened my suitcase and started going through my things. I felt violated. I know that he has a right to do so – anyone entering the states can be searched. He then directed me to drive over to the office building and park in spot number 2. There were 2 agents waiting there for me, and by the time we had entered the building I was surrounded by 5 agents. I guess they found skinny little me very threatening!

 

Now usually when I go into this building I use the immigration side – to fill in a form or what have you. It’s not scary just time consuming. This time they took me behind a high partition. And once again, it was training day at the border. And once again, they were learning on me. Nice. Which meant every question and answer was analyzed right in front of me.

 

They had me fill out a customs declaration form. As I was filling it out they asked me the same questions over and over and over again, the same way, phrased differently etc. I finally asked them what was going on. I just wanted to understand what they were worried about. I was told that they had the right to search me and my vehicle to ensure I wasn’t carrying anything into the States that I wasn’t supposed to. They made me empty my pockets, turn them inside out, they went through my purse, emptied it all out. Went through my stuff with a fine toothcomb. They asked how much money I had – I told them the truth – not very much. Then they asked if I was bringing in 10,000 dollars or more in cash or merchandise. No. Am I taking any articles for resale? No. Do I have any illegal drugs? No. Did I bring gifts? No (I’m a cheapskate lol). Who am I going to visit? Family. Which family? My husband. At this point I was worried that they would start making immigration noises – you know, like have you applied for residency etc. Nothing. Nada. Zip. They were not interested in that. Just if I was drug trafficking.

 

At this point I was shaking. I know I had done nothing wrong, but they make you feel guilty and just so violated. I guess finally they decided I was who I said I was, that I was not a threat to national security, and they allowed me to sit down. They made me turn off my PoisonBerry  so I couldn’t even text my KoD for him to know I was detained. (Or for him to soothe me and comfort me and tell me it will all be ok).  There was a young lad who was sitting there after being pulled off a bus that was on its way to Albany. They apparently didn’t like the allergy medication they found in his bag.

 

While I was sitting there they were ripping Mr CarMan’s van apart looking for who knows what. But of course I couldn’t see that. I had to just sit there staring into space and not appearing nervous. They finally asked me for the permission letter from Mr CarMan. They gave it a cursory glance and returned it. Gave me my papers and by 10 am I was back on the highway going south to see my husband. I stopped at the first rest stop to clean the car back up and to stop shaking. Finally I was able to calm down and drive the rest of the way to Monsey without incident, B”H.