Sunday, July 23, 2006
Crossing the Border with Contraband Fruit
PORTLAND, ME - July 15
Anything to declare? Food, produce, meat? Yes.
We crossed into Canada with 4 large oranges. We also had 2 boxes of cheese crackers, 2 bags of cookies, and 2 boxes of granola bars (as more proof that my travelling companion and I are actually the same person, we bought the same car snacks). But Dr. A brought the oranges to put up a front that we might eat something healthy in the course of the week.
Canadian customs was uninterested. They were more suspicious that 2 New Englanders were not carrying firearms, tax-free acohol, and wads of cash.
"Do you have any firearms with you today?"
"No sir," I replied. He had just questioned my citizenship, so I thought I should play safe.
"What did you bring to protect yourself while you're here, from say... dogs? Or men."
(Is Canada suddenly dangerous?) I wondered, but just said, "Nothing." Please ask more loudly, so those bikers can hear you.
"No Mace, pepper spray, not'in like that?"
He waved us through.
We ate 1 orange on the boat. Oh, glorious Florida orange that I could not buy on Sunday in Nova Scotia and which would have cost me 5 guineas haypence hectare...
We ate another orange days later. The fruit was starting to lose its glory -- very wet without being at all juicy. But it didn't melt in the car, so it was the most appetizing choice.
YARMOUTH, NS - July 20
Waiting in the ferry line to board, we complete our US customs forms while Canadian officials half-heartedly inspect our vehicle. One of them is drinking a coolatta while he does it.
Anything to declare? says the form.
The US form breaks food into fruits, vegetables, plants, food, insects.
"Meat" is on the next line, next to "animals." ("Is that rabbit pet or meat, sir?")
We hesitate - are we declaring these oranges? We brought them in. If they weren't purchased, are they being "exported"? Do they have dollar value?
Dr. A says, "What if we eat them on the boat?" Aah, international waters! "I'm not checking the box if we don't have them when we get off."
I trust the woman who has lived in Laos.
We don't eat them; we do check the box during the next line wait.
Offcier Sanchez ( I promise) stoops to see us both in the window frame, asks me if I won the jackpot on the slots. He has no idea. But he is friendly and respectful as he asks to see our guns, which we assure him we do not have.
He reads my companion's form. "Fruits and vegetables?"
We say together, "Two oranges." Smooth.
Sanchez looks away, reflecting us in his federale shades. "Yeh, I'm going to need those."
The taint of Canada clings to your Florida oranges like hanging chads. Please do not bring them in to freedom-loving Maine.
Everyone who hears this story wonders what the border guards do with confiscated food. We all agree they eat it. We started to advise Sanchez they were no good anymore, but then we thought that would sound suspicious, and we didn't have any time to waste.
I am sorry, border guards of all nations, that I had nothing more interesting for you to do. I know you wait all day for some excitement. I tell my doctor the same thing.