Thursday, October 16, 2008

Close Call At The Border

I was nearly arrested at the United States-Canada border near Vanceboro, Maine today. All good plans can go awry. Prior to leaving Charlotte, I diligently made multiple to-do and packing lists. Knowing that our first leg of this around-the-world journey would approximate 4 weeks, I was extremely thorough in populating my lists and checking it twice. We packed laptops, raincoats, books, laundry detergent, a tent, and even got a prescription of ciprofloxacin just in case we encountered some really disturbing food. In our Chrysler Town & Country minivan, we were a house on wheels. We could live in basic comfort and be prepared for any obstacle or malady. Halfway to Maine, the "I could kick-myself-in-the butocks" thought dawned upon me that I had forgotten our passports! I had loaded the mini-van with so many items that we would probable never use but had forgotten the most critical travel document. We could go anywhere EXCEPT ACROSS THE BORDER!! I was struck with the dunderhead irony of undertaking a trip free of time and space constraints, but only within the United States!

Prior to 2008, you could enter Canada and return to the U.S. with just your driver’s license. Currently you are required to present a combinaton of your driver’s license and birth certificate or naturalization papers. My birth certificate is somewhere in Vietnam , and my naturalization papers are in Houston with my parents. Amie and I had originally planned to enter Canada and head down to Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, but we’ll now have to alter our route to remain within the confines of the U.S. After “cranberrying” (see blog below) in Vanceboro, ME, Amie's father showed us how close were to the Canadian border. Upon arriving to the border control station, we stumbled out of the pick-up truck with cameras in hand ready to click away. I had gone as far as I could legally go without my passport. Now, the fact that I was not able to pass into Canada made me want to take a vast array of pictures. Before I could even snap a single photo, the border patrol officer burst out of the security area roaring at us, but in particular me as I in no way look like a natural born citizen of the United States, “Do not take any pictures! Stop taking pictures! This is a U.S. security sensitive site! Let me see those cameras!” Though we were on U.S. soil, we had bumbled in exceeding the legality of the moment as it is forbidden to take pictures of sensitive US security installations such as border control stations! My gosh! This was the worst case scenario for me to be apprehended at the border station without my passport. I had not even crossed over into Canada! I don't think I would perform well under a stress-induced interrogation. I did not know to run or raise my hands in surrender! Amazingly, my first thought was not concern for my own freedom but rather for the protection of my Apple iPhone. My iPhone has all my music, photos, emails, games, and loads of other essential neat stuff. There was no way this guy was going to confiscate my iPhone! I’ll never get it back! I almost ran off into the Maine woods and would have been like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. I most certainly would never have survived nearly as long as Dr. Richard Kimble as this Asian is not at all partial to the Maine chill, and Asians in general do not camouflage well in the Maine woods. I'd either freeze to death, get shot by a hunter who has mistaken me for a clumsy moose, or be attacked by a black bear!

To further add to the surreal nature of the events, Amie’s father headed straight toward the fence separating us and the officer and proceeded to introduce himself matter-of-factly and even extended his fingers through the fence in offer of handshake, “I’m Stephen Mallett” as if he was as recognizable as the President of the United States or the Mayor of all of Maine! To my beleaguered common sense, Officer Thomas introduces himself to my father-in-law. “Of course I know who you are, you delivered the lumber for my garage”. This seemingly simple business transaction was sufficient to regard 2 life-long Mainers as soul brothers. The tension in the air immediately dissipated. The officer became friendly toward us and gestured to the areas in which we could take photos. Although I was still unable to get into Canada, I was "pleased as punch" about having some new photos, retaining my iPhone, and not having to become a fugitive. My first act upon returning to Charlotte will be packing our passports directly into my backpack.

The photos subsequently submitted are legal, safe, and in no way jeopardizes the security of our nation's border.

A Relieved Hung & Amie At The US-Canada Border Control Station
(Please Note Canadian Flag In Distant Background Behind Amie's Head)

"Maine...The Way Life Should Be"

--hnb





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