Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Neighbor to the North

Like any good liberal, I love Canada, warts and all. I have a variety of reasons, but now I have one more.

Matt and John had been planning a camping trip to Canada, to make up for the trip to California I took with Maia. John was impressed about the idea of going to another country, and as Matt planned the trip John kept talking about the passport he was going to bring.

The passport is from an excellent offer from Highlights magazine, which I am not getting paid to recommend. He wondered aloud if it would stand in for identification, and if he could even get it stamped.

"John, they want something that the government gave you," we told him. "Something that proves it's you."

"It does prove it's me," he said. "It has my picture in it." Inside, he had taped his school mug shot and printed his name and address. On the pages were stickers from other countries, which were included with the Highlights packet. It wouldn't impress Donald Rumsfeld, that's for sure.

What with all the new Security of the Fatherland rules, we weren't sure what it would take to get John across the border and back. Government Web sites aren't exactly clear. Matt had his passport, and his driver's license, and three month's worth of pay stubs, but we weren't even sure where John's birth certificate was, with all the boxes we still haven't unpacked.

The big weekend came, and the two headed north with a tent, some s'more fixins, and a new Swiss Army knife for John. I didn't hear from them for several hours, and had imagined them all the way to some detention center in Newfoundland, when I got a call from Matt. This is how he reported the crossing:

The two pulled up to the border. As they approached, John pulled his passport (which we had told him to leave at home, since they were packing light) out of his knapsack and said quietly, "Just in case," more to himself than to Matt. Matt had all his documents ready, but as soon as he rolled down the window, the border guard said, "That's fine. I'm not really interested in you. What do you have for him?"

"Oh! Uh," said Matt, making noises that preceed a profession of ignorance. "Well..."

"I have a passport!" cried John, jumping up and down in his seat, as much as the belt could allow.

"Oh, REALLY?" said the border guard. "I'd like to see it."

"It's just a toy, like a pretend passport," Matt said hastily, trying to suppress John.

"I said I'd like to see it," the guard said.

John passed it over to the guard, who opened it and compared the school photo to the kid inside the car. After looking it over like he looks over every other passport, he stamped it with a flourish and said, "Good enough for me. Welcome to Canada and enjoy your stay."

Canada, I love you.


  1. You came to California. And did not stop by. When you know I have been DYING to eat your daughter's cheeks. Hmpf. That is all.

  2. You know, I feel kinds weird posting about this! But I'm so glad John's "passport" got him in (but did he have any problems getting back into the States?)

  3. A piece of paper and the world opens up like an oyster. It's almost magic. And now comes the net, reversing the power structure that's dominated since the invention of the printing press.

    Tom Friedman may be wrong when he says the world is flat. But borders are an artifice.

    Star A. Decise

  4. I love Canada too, but the border's not always such a breeze. My friends, who live here but visited the states briefly, had no problems getting to the US, but had their car stripped upon re-entry.

    Canadian border dudes apparently don't take kindly to dreads.

    Crazy hippies.