The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Allowed" de quitter le Canada

Last September I was evaluating the customer experience at some gas stations and fast food joints in northern North Dakota and I noticed that I could make $150 in a few hours if I could get into Canada. I was aware that Canada might not let me in, but I wanted to see what would happen. I stashed a little bit of some medicine, for which I didn't have the proper autorisation, at a place a few miles south of Portal, and headed for Canada.

For about 10 years, Canada has enforced a policy of not letting Americans with a DWI less than 10 years old into its pristine society, so I knew my chances were slim. The last time I went to Canada, in 1994, I just drove up to the booth at the border and showed my driver license, and I was waved through. This time, when I got to the booth, the woman inside said, "Hello, Mr. Newland." I surmised that she had keyed in my license plate and received the info in a matter of seconds. "Please park over there and come in."

Inside, I had to wait about half an hour before I was summoned into an interior office, where a sharp-edged young woman asked why I wanted into Canada. I told her I had a chance to get paid for eating hamburgers and ice cream. She told me she couldn't allow me to take jobs from needy Canadians. I said, "Okay. I'll go back home."

"Not so fast." She then quizzed me about my criminal record. I answered a few of her questions, then said, "Look. Why waste this time? You've already said I can't come to Canada. I'll just leave." She ignored me and asked a couple more questions, to which I did not reply. Then she gave me a classroom lecture on the procedure for getting admitted to Canada, which involves waiting ten more years without any convictions for pot or alcohol. Finally, she had me sign the document posted below.

She then directed me to follow another strictly-business woman outside, where that woman directed me to drive into a garage-like structure. There, two women pulled everything out of my car onto the floor. A young man with curly blond hair brought out a waggy-tailed chocolate labrador puppy and led him into and around my car, including putting him in the engine compartment and patting the air cleaner cover to direct him to pay attention to it.

The women continued looking through the car while the guy brought the dog over to me and walked him around me. He asked, "Do you use marijuana medically? We have medical marijuana in Canada." I told him I was a medical user and that I was well aware of Canada's policies. "Do you think the US will ever legalize it?" he asked. I assume he was playing good cop, to get me to think he was really on my side.

"Did you bring marijuana with you?"

"You'd have found it if I had, wouldn't you?"

"Please answer the question."


"How do you use it?"

"Pinch in a pipe."

"Where's your pipe?"

"South of here."

"Do you carry it in the center console of your car?"

"That would be a convenient place," I said.

"Trudeau thought so." Trudeau. Cute.

We then talked about cannabis politics for a while, and I finally asked, "So if you had found my stash, what would you have done?" He just smiled. Fucking cops. So cute. So incredibly willing to do unconscionable things.

I was then told to repack my car. Then they told me to head back south. 100 yards south, I was stopped by US Immigration. There, knowing I had just spent three hours being interrogated and searched by Canucks, they took half an hour to search me and my car again. That was an impressive use of time, I thought. "If Canada won't let me in, and the USA won't let me return, will I spend eternity in this 100-yard stretch of no-man's land?"

Then I was back in NoDak (speaking of no-man's-land) and heading back to a particular fence post five miles south. Soon afterward, I toasted authority with a little aerosol cocktail.

"I am 'allowing' you to withdraw your application to enter Canada." Now, that's funny.

In November 2011, following this incident, Loy and I were thinking of going to Mexico. I called the Mexican embassy in DC, to ask if I would be granted entry into Mexico. I explained to the consul why I was asking, "I have a recent felony conviction." 

"Have you completed your sentence? Are you off probation or parole?"

"Yes," I replied. 

"What was the crime?" 

"Posession of marijuana," I said.

He laughed. "No problem," he said. We went to Mexico.

In Denver, after clearing security, I was putting my shoes back on. Sitting next to me, putting his shoes on, was a guy wearing a gold-braided blue blazer. "Are you a pilot?" I asked.

"40 years," he replied.

"And they make you do this shit?"

He smiled sardonically. "They look very carefully at my shoes. Then they give me a cruise missile to fly."


Wayne Gilbert said...

That is an alarming story. Do they screen for criminals at the border?

Bob Newland said...

What do you think I described in the story? I'd say that was "screening for criminals."

It's less alarming to me than what happens daily in the courts in SoDak.

Bill F. said...

Great writing, Bob. That should be published elsewhere. Have you thought of submitting it? Could net you a few bucks.

Bob Newland said...

It's probably somewhere south of "great" writing, but I thought it should be published somewhere, too. And it was.

I am satisfied with the admiration of my peers, as opposed to the crass commercial satisfaction of "a few bucks."

Wayne Gilbert said...

My question was a poorly executed attempt at sarcasm.

Bob Newland said...

For lessons in excellently-executed attempts at sarcasm, see the original post. :--))

Sherry Shadyac said...

You can get paid to eat hamburgers and ice-cream?

Bob Newland said...

It's what I do for a living. Review previous Forum posts for details.

chad sechsington said...

you sure your name isn't yossarian?

Bob Newland said...

Everyone experiences Yossarian moments, especially when dealing with people who have ultimate control, whether momentary or long-term, over their lives.

Not everyone can appreciate the humor inherent in many of these situations. That's understandable, too.