She knew. One glance at that smug countenance glaring through the open window of the booth was all I needed. She knew I had voted for Bush just as surely as she knew that Bush lied. And now this Royal Canadian Customs Officer was to make me pay for it. The pickup truck I was driving had been her first clue, but my big mistake was the yellow ribbon on the tailgate. Those cameras let them see more than just license plates.
“I want to see your passport and another piece of picture ID” she glared. I don’t have a passport and told her so. “Then I need your birth certificate and two pieces of photo ID”. I had to inform her in my most humble tone of voice that I had no birth certificate either. “Then how can you prove your citizenship to me?” she demanded. I told her that I had been crossing from Michigan to Canada for 40 years and never needed to do so previously. But of course she was ready for that and recited chapter and verse of Canadian law to me. And so it went for what seemed like half a day. The portly Customs Officer contemptuously berated me, repeatedly demonstrating her power and the power of the Dominion over Bush-voting, pickup-driving cowboys.
But in the end, the power of Yanqui dollars won the day. I was allowed to cross in the reasonable (but false) expectation that I would spend lavishly my ill-gotten hard currency in the t-shirt shops of Stratford and Kingston.
I cannot remember a summer when I did not vacation in Ontario. We were so close to our cousins that we accepted their currency and defended their soil as if each were our own. Growing up in Michigan two things were certain: the supremacy of the automobile and the friendship of Canada.
We had been side by side in the trenches of WWI. In the late 1930s the U.S. Army was allowed to build a road across Canada connecting Alberta and Alaska. In the next war we both sent pilots to the Battle of Britain, fought together in the hedgerows of France, and shared intelligence freely. Canadian Sailors on corvettes defended our merchant ships against the U-Boat menace with their lives and vice versa. We were jointly proud of “the longest undefended border in the world”. With NAFTA we formalized an example of free trade for the entire world. In Iran Canadians risked their own safety to save the live of U.S. diplomats.
And so it was in the now distant 20th Century when Michiganians saw smiles and heard in sincere friendly tones, “Welcome to Canada”.
Update 10:15AM, 2-Oct-05. Removed some Interent Explorer “artifacts”. I do have to check this more often in IE. ;)