|this was my 'site' for the night before going international. fancy, huh?|
I am so incredibly humbled. I am grateful and shocked by the concern and generosity of those interested enough to follow along in my journey. And even more for those willing give what (little, in some cases) they have in order to pick me up off of the proverbial floor as I lie there in a heap of defeat on the
|while waiting in line for canada.|
i thought i looked alright for no shower/car camping.
and i was naively excited to go international...
I slept at a rest stop last night. I didn't want to cross the border last night; I wanted to enter Canada and Vancouver in the illumination of day. (And save some money on lodging - besides, I quickly noticed I wasn't the only one there at the rest stop, with windows covered. My vaga-brethren.)
My father called this morning, "Hello, is this a good time? Where are you?"
"Yup, it's perfect. I'm just lying in my trunk, trying to will myself out of my warm sleeping bag at a rest stop three miles south of the Canadian border."
"Oh, good," he responded as though I told him I was sitting at my desk at work during a lunch hour, "Then I caught you at a good time." I'm glad all of this has become normal - and everyone has stopped worrying quite so much about me and my rubber-tramping. We had a chat - he had good health news to tell me (he's in remission!) - and after an hour, I managed on wriggled myself out of my sleeping bag, fighting against the melancholy of rain.
Exiting my car, I helped myself to a fancy push-button sink "bath" at the rest stop bathroom. I changed my shirt and pulled my tie-dye thrift store skirt from SLC over the yoga pants I'd slept in, did my makeup, and dry shampooed my hair all in an attempt to look slightly more presentable considering I haven't showered in two days and still smell like campfire smoke from beach camping. Around 12:30p, I was off to Canada, ready to make this trip international.
After sitting in the queue for 20 minutes, eating a breakfast/lunch of a a few peanuts, I was apparently so eager to enter Canada, that I failed to notice that w hen someone was at the gate station, the person behind them waits behind a line about 10 feet away from the gate. A green light then indicates you pull forward to the gate once they're ready. I - in my international driving naivety - pull up, toll booth style: bumper to bumper. I realized what I did too late and had no choice but to stay parked just a few feet from the car ahead of me. Evidently, that put the customers guy, Officer McCharles, in a foul disposition for my arrival.
Or, perhaps, it was that he looked like a penis in a bulletproof vest. "You were supposed to stop back there," snapped the vest-clad wiener.
"Yes. I'm sorry. I realized that too late," I responded, with an honest apology and feeling quite small and stupid for having done so.
"Didn't you see that line back there?" My mouth agape - I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice. Isn't 'I'm sorry' like a thing here?! "STOP EATING THOSE PEANUTS!" he barked as if I'd just kicked his first born in the head. I put the peanuts in the center cosole, and he continued...clearly not waiting for any reply, "Didn't you see the little red light? Did you choose to just ignore it? Do you know why that little red light is there to stop you from pulling up?!"
"Umm...in case you need to get out?" I replied, meekly, like a child being scolded for swearing when they didn't know 'shit' was a bad word.
"Yea, in case I need to see in a car, I need to be able to get out and you blocked it!!"
"Well, I'm sorry and I definitely won't ever do it again," I said meaningfully, which apparently he decided to intercept as snark. Then things really began to go downhill, as if I hadn't thought I'd lost my fitting enough - the ground seemed to fall out beneath me: A landslide to detention.
"What is this attitude you have?" he snapped at me.
What?" I responded, perplexed. Jubilant, up until this point was perhaps the word that could best describe how I felt that day, particularly after hearing my father's remission news.
"You pulled up here with an attitude," he confirmed, offering no more information as to what exact attitude he was eluding to. At this point I have no idea what he is talking about and I'm sort of petrified.
He then continues the normal show with a large log stuck up his ass including his most ridiculous of barked orders: TURN OFF THAT RADIO...which was on 6; barely a whisper. I turn it off and he then asks what I'm going to Canada for and I tell him tourism. And how long: Till Friday. What do you do for a living: unemployed. Where will you stay: a hotel. What is your home address? I stutter, nervously at this point: Um, I live in my car; traveling.
This answer appears to (re)infuriate him. He asks if I know anyone in Canada: No. What hotel will you stay at: I don't know yet. This is like a really intimidating games of 20 questions where the host is a total asshole.
Though, admittedly, this may seem a bit weird... but if I were up to something, wouldn't I come up with a better damn story?
He continues, unfazed. After a few more aggressive pokes and prods later, he moves on to the customs card: Animals? No. Drugs? No. Firearms or weapons? (Briefly I considered the stungun, but that's hardly a deadly weapon and I certainly don't want to give this turd any reason to get out of his booth and assault me.): No. Plants? Uhhh...I have some tomatoes I'm going to throw out --- and a cactus that failed to grow, I said as I pointed to a shotglass filled with dirt on the dash.
"FORGET THE TOMATOES," he spat back. "Anything else?"
"Umm..apples?" I said, nervously, realizing this situation was somehow getting way more serious over some fucking produce. "Yeah, I think I have two apples." At this point, I am really regretting going to Canada. And all I want to do is backup, but that's not an option.
I suppose then, I wasn't surprised when he then handed me a yellow ticket (I would soon learn were for further inspections) and told me to pull to the side under an overhand next to the customs building. I turned left and handed my ticket to another officer - much kinder, whom I told reminded me of Colin Hanks - who put me slightly more at ease. He told me to park in 3 and enter Line A once inside. I parked and headed out of my car with my wallet, keys and phone - somehow still thinking this wouldn't take very long.
When I entered, I immediately noticed that NO ONE else was in Line A. This was not a good sign. I looked down at my ticket, hoping it would tell me what the hell was going on, as a bit of panic began to set in. There was a 1 and a 5 written on my ticket with a 7, circled.
Just then, I realized I didn't have my Passport on me. So I ran back out to my car to grab it, closed the still open bag of peanuts sitting in the console, the dick guard made me put away (even though I had yet to have an actual meal at 1pm)- suddenly realizing they may search my shit and peanuts everywhere would be the damn icing on the shit cake. I said a hello to Colin Hanks again and then back in the line in which no else is standing.
I waited for about 10 minutes, during which time one person joined the line behind me and about 15 people to the other two lines to my left; soon to be discovered the far more favorable lines in which to be standing. I was then called over by a young, pretty blonde woman. She was probably about my age and new to the job. She had just moved over from Toronto. As soon as I walked up, she was much friendlier than the man at the gate and I confessed to her how mean and intimidating the gate guard was to me (thankful she was much kinder). I was eased at our initial exchange.
She began to ask me questions. What was I doing here and where did I sleep last night and where was I going to stay and how was I paying for my travels and how much money did I have in the bank. I answered her questions, with ease - not bumbling over tomatoes or failed shotglass cacti. Not scared to tell her I'd slept at a rest stop and about my blog, which she then looked up to confirm this whole story (which apparently she didn't believe until then). She confirmed I was traveling alone and asked if I was meeting anyone in Canada: Yes and no. And she asked if I had anything for self-defense, like a knife.
"Yes," I said, sort of obviously, "I have a flip knife."
"Yes," I said, sort of obviously, "I have a flip knife."
"Okay," she said, jotting something down. "Do you have any other self-defense weapons...like pepper spray?"
"Yes, I have pepper spray and a stun gun."
"Oh," she said in reply, "where are those in your car."
"Honestly, I don't know," I said. "Things move around a lot and I only sleep with them when I'm camping and I haven't been camping in a while because I was staying with a friend in Seattle."
"The officier at the gate asked you if you had any weapons and you said no. So we can arrest you."
"He asked me if I had any firearms," I protested. She went to confirm with the penis in a vest if he asked if I had any of the self defense weapons I'd just told her I had when she asked and of course he said yes he did. I don'tknow, maybe he did. Perhaps I was too busy shifting through intimidation and putting away peanuts and turning down the radio and trying to figure out who to back over a line I had crossed on accident to fully understand what the fuck he was asking me. Did I have any weapons that could kill someone? No, I didn't have any fucking weapons.
She returned, that the vested penis asked me if I had any of the following thing that she just had. Of course he did. She then informed me that because I withheld information at the gate, that I could now be arrested.
"WHAT?!" I said, in disbelief and holding back tears. "I didn't know. I didn't know. I wasn't trying to intentionally deceive you. And he scared the shit of out me."
"Is this your first time crossing the border," she asked, mildly softer with me as I was clearly about to break down in front of her.
"Well, I can be kind of intimidating," she admitted with the empathy I think that only a fellow female could. Then continued: "Do you have any drugs in your car? Because coming from Washington, it's not illegal but you can't bring them into the country."
"No, no drugs. Apparently I'm dumb enough to bring pepper spray, but I know better than to travel around with pot," I uncomfortably laughed. Jokes, my default stance in the world's most uncomfortable of situation. I'd be real fucked if I ever came face to face with a bear.
She asked if there was anything else they should know about in my car, which obviously no, there isn't because why would I try to bring illegal things into a country while admitting I was homeless and unemployed, dressed like a damn hippie? I was then forced to hand over everything in my hands: My phone, wallet, keys and Passport. They were going to go search my car. "Go sit down over there; I'll call you back up when we're ready." I was officially detained.
The first thought that entered my mind after they confiscated my license, passport, cell phone and car keys was: I haven't had a shower in over 48 hours. The second was: I'm starving. (I had asked if I could grab a granola bar - she said no. And the gate turd made me stop eating my peanuts. So, basically, I hadn't eaten much of anything since yesterday's breakfast with Thom... 26 hours ago.)
While they went through my entire life - which now fits in a hatchback - I sat in a large room with other detainees. Nervous I was going to get arrested, wondering what I would do if everything didn't end up okay and also calming myself at the same time that the universe would take care of me. World Championship Poker and CNN for over two hours while I waited for my (now) arresting officer to return. Not only were they detaining us, they were torturing us with terrible American television. Unfortunately, I hadn't been bright enough to bring my purse or a book or anything; I was naive enough to think I would be in and out. I had only exactly what they wanted to take away from me (and I wasn't even permitted to go back to the car for food or water). Eventually, she called me back up.
Now, in front of her, was sitting my pepper spray, taped shut and my little stun gun in about 100 pieces (how they managed to mangle something that's an inch by three inches that much is beyond me). She reminded me again that they can arrest me, now far more sternly, leading me to think that one of her superiors was training her on intimidation tactics for stupid Americans. (I would later learn there is an entire show in Canada devoted to filming customs harassing stupid Americans as they try to cross the border. Delightful.) She said that they found my stun gun and pepper spray and I knew exactly where they were because I was inside the bag pocket where they found them - the front pocket of my backpack...where I had earlier put the peanuts when I grabbed my passport (before Canada went to hell in a handbasket). I guess they film each parking spot and review the tape - I'm glad I didn't pick my nose or something...
"I put peanuts in there!" I protested. She didn't care. She again told me that I could be arrested for the weapons and it's up to the arresting officer to decide the fate of the detainee. She then informed me that it's a $500 charge for each weapon and that I forfeit my car if I can't pay for them. "I don't have that!" I pleaded.
"Yes, you do," she was suddenly really unpleasant (gathering now that perhaps more than one seasoned officer must have told her to really stick it to me - clearly i'm a seasoned criminal about to wreak havoc on Canada with my three inch purple stun gun and pepper spray I'd be more likely to spray in my own eyes than someone else's), "You told me how much you have in your bank account."
Tricksy bitches! I thought. I felt hoodwinked. "But that's already tied up in credit cards."
"Well how would you pay for your car to be fixed if it broke down in Canada," she asked, and before I could answer accused, "What if you got sick? Are you coming here for free health care? Do you not have insurance?"
"What?!" I was really confused by the turn of this conversation. "It's not even legal to not have insurance in the states now. I'm insured. I just wanted to see Vancouver - although now I'm really regretting it. " I continued, pleading to her innate good nature, "I wasn't trying to do anything devious. I told you what I had when you asked; I was just scared at the gate. I didn't know. Please."
"Go sit back down," she ordered, dryly.
So, back to Poker and CNN. She called me up about an hour later. She said she had talked to her supervisor and explained my situation and showed him my blog. (Blog to the rescue!) They weren't going to arrest me and she will forgive one of the fines, but I would still have to pay $500 to get out of detention. I appreciated her effort, although $500 was still a huge blow for me. I had carefully planned my finances and was running incredibly low (and still had to get through to January and beyond since going home for Christmas was throwing off my whole schedule). Defeated, I thanked her. She then said that it was up to the discretion of the arresting officer as to whether or not I could enter the country and she was willing to let me enter Canada. (Oh...goodie.)
"Do you still want to," she asked - nice again - and with that kind of questioning uncertainty that sends half of your mouth up in a pinch so hard it half shuts that same eye.
"Well," I pondered because all I really wanted was my homeland again, but I've gone through all of this bullshit already so I might as well, "I don't know."
"Well," she said, like a friend trying to help her friend make a decision, "You've come this far; you might as well."
"That's what I was thinking...okay," I responded reluctantly. She then told me that she had to fill out all the paper work and it would take another hour (it was now about 4:30p). I asked if I could take that time to go re-organize my car and get a (damn) granola bar, to which she acquiesced. When I arrived back to spot 3, I felt victimized. Half of my life was strewn around the outside of my car. I decided to make the best of a shit situation, pull the rest out and reorganize the whole thing. (This was overdue anyway.) Nearly finished, my officer came out for me and I was back at the bad desk. She handed me a piece of paper.
Okay. So you'll just take this over to the cashier, pay it and then you're good to go," she directed me, pointing to the desk behind me. Finally, I'll be in the line you want to be in. "Do you have any other questions for me?"
"Do you know of anything to do in Vancouver?" I said in half in jest.
She smiled. "Not really, I just moved here myself. The park is really nice but I havne't had a chance to explore much else. Any other questions?"
"Okay. Well, I'm really sorry about all of this. I'm sorry you had to go through all of this. I hope you enjoy Vancouver anyway."
"Thanks," I responded, "Actually appreciating the apology, which seemed heartfelt and nearly moved me to (hungry, stressed fueled) tears. I fought back the crying - cause it was going to be an ugly one - and headed over to the cashier.
I walked up and announced fairly loudly, "Hi, I'd like to give you money I don't have." (See: Uncomfortable Default stance.) The cashier was not amused, but her two male coworkers behind her ducked to chuckle behind their partition. Apparently there aren't that many people jovial post-deportation. It's my defense mechanism - you're welcome, Canada.
$500 later, I was back to my car and finished packing up. As I pulled out of the station, all the emotions I'd be stifling for the past five hours came rushing over me and I began to cry. Just as I pulled into the country, I managed to post to facebook just before losing reception:
Then, I lost reception. I had forgotten to call my phone company to turn on International service. I also had no WiFi and no Canadian maps and nowhere to go - or knowledge of how to get to Vancouver even if I wanted to just wing it. I was scared again - or rather never stopped. I needed the support of my social media 'network' now more than ever; I needed my momma; someone; anyone. But in that moment, in the middle of bumper to bumper rush hour traffic in Canada - I was ALONE...