August 6, 2007

Truth and Customs

Your black cards can bring you money
so you hide them when you're able.
In the land of milk and honey
you must put them on the table.
--- Steely Dan, Do It Again
It's the first morning of a long weekend and we've spent 40 minutes stuck in traffic waiting for our turn with US Customs.

"Have you got any food?", we're asked.

We were in the midst of listening to Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, which makes the point that what much of what we eat isn't worthy of being called food. "No", I answered, not thinking of our snacks and lunch as worthy of mention.

Border guard: "Is that an ice chest?"

Me: "Yes"

BG: "What's in it?"

I describe the contents which are then briefly inspected. Busted. Our passports are held and we're sent for a further inspection. Many other vehicles with Canadian plates were already there.

Detailed Inspection
He walks up to me and the sun begins to shine
Then he walks right past and I know that I've got to get back in the line
--- The Kinks, Get Back In Line
The inspector asks us to get out of our minivan and stand in a designated area. I'm asked to describe what we had and he inspects to confirm. He holds a plastic bag with two tomatoes with the care reserved for stinky diapers. The whole vehicle isn't inspected --- only the ice chest and snack box. Nothing is confiscated. We're spared a $300 fine --- this time.

The inspector eventually returns with our passports and asks: "Why didn't you say you had food when you were asked?"

Me: "I didn't think what we had was worth mentioning." The items were for our consumption en route. As vegetarians, we're particular about what we eat. Quoting Kingsolver hardly seemed wise.

Inspector: "We ask the questions. You answer them." Fair enough. We were not asked to interpret.

He lets us go. The whole process took 20 minutes.

Back To Canada
When we return to Canada a few days later, we're asked the usual questions
  • how long were you gone?
  • what's the value of what you're bringing back?
  • do you have any alcohol or tobacco?
No questions about food.

Lessons for next time
Leave your vittles behind when entering the fast food nation.
I don't think America will have really made it until we have our own salad dressing. Until then we're stuck behind the French, Italians, Russians and Caesarians." — Pat McNelis

No comments: