Recently, Deborah and I were talking about our Canada travel plans this year. Suddenly, we both burst out laughing about my experience at the Canadian border last summer when I set out on a simple errand in search of dill with no idea of the misstep I was about to make.
One afternoon while staying in Blaine, WA, located proximate to the Canadian border, Deborah and I decided to eat healthy. Our choice was an avocado chicken salad for an early dinner. We had all the ingredients except dill.
Via a Google search, Deborah located a market less than a half-mile away and sent me in search of dill. Meanwhile, she did the 30-minute prep: boiling eggs, slicing the avocado and chicken, shredding the bacon, and roasting the corn.
I found the market to be very small and stocked with limited spices and no dill. Getting back into my Jeep, Willy, and I used my Garmin GPS, selected categories, then grocery stores. Choosing a superstore just 3.6 miles away, I put Willy in drive and began to follow the line Garmin created.
A Precarious Situation
When Deborah called an hour later, I could only say, ‘I’m in a precarious situation right now and can’t talk.” It was a two-part situation:
Part one: The list of grocery stores in my Garmin failed to indicate if the store was in the US or Canada.
Part two: I picked the closest the store, which happened, unbeknownst to me, to be in Canada.
I was not planning on entering Canada when I went onto a roundabout entering I-5 right at the border. I did not have my passport, and I had things in my car that are not allowed in Canada.
Rather than actually pass customs into Canada, I flipped a u-turn through some barricades not meant for public use. I wanted to avoid coming face-to-face with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Still, I had passed the US border and had to funnel back through our customs and immigration checkpoint.
Following the Magenta Line
I attempted to explain to my border agent, at one of the eight open booths, that my wife had just sent me in search of dill, and I had innocently followed the magenta line on my Garmin and mistakenly ended up in Canada.
I was thinking it was a plausible story and the agent would just wave me through despite only having an Arizona driver’s license for identification.
In addition to not having a passport, my agent, looking no nonsense with a gun and bulletproof vest, could not find any Canadian record that I had legally entered into Canada. She felt it best for me to be escorted into the immigration building for a more in-depth discussion of who I was and why it appeared that I was trying to enter the US without a passport. Obviously, she wasn’t buying the dill story.
I was told to park in an area in which cars were being searched, leaving mine unlocked. Meanwhile, I was escorted inside. At that moment, it flashed: I had spent my entire life as a salesman and was now facing my ultimate sale. I stood in front of an agent who was looking at a computer screen that I couldn’t see. He took my driver’s license and asked who I was and what I was doing.
“Well, sir,” I started. “My name is Tim Bateman, and my wife sent me in search of dill, and I mistakenly ended up in Canada. I was just following the magenta line on my Garmin.”
Have You Ever Been Arrested?
Another agent was standing just behind my agent, also looking at the computer screen. “Have you ever been arrested?” he asked.
“Not for trying to buy dill,” I answered.
He didn’t laugh. “Listen, have you even had an officer with a badge like this,” he said while pointing at his chest, “put steel cuffs on your wrists and lead you away?”
Hoping he was talking about the past and not the immediate future, I admitted, “That kind of happened back in the ’70s. It was a rebellious time, but ultimately I was never charged with anything.”
Finding Tim Bateman
I now realized they had the right Tim Bateman on the screen and knew everything about me as I was asked to recite dates and towns we had visited the past month while traveling from Phoenix, AZ to Birch Bay, WA.
At least it was a colorful story. Palm Springs: RV repair; Bandon: ate at Tony’s Crab Shack; Bend: registered at two RV parks at the same time; Seattle: went to The Family Fun Center for a six-year-old’s birthday party.
Where Is Your Wife?
Finally, they asked: where was my wife? “You know, the one that sent you in search of dill?”
I considered it a closed sale when I heard the simple words I was hoping for: “OK, you may go.”
They did suggest that, in the future, I should keep my passport with me. They stamped the goldenrod piece of paper the first agent had assigned to me, and I was free to re-enter the US.
Outside, our jeep, Willy, was untouched, and I was quickly back in her and then back in the US of A.
Two Hours Later
Now, two hours since leaving, Deborah called again. “Where in the world are you? Have you gotten the dill?” she asked.
“I’m just approaching the store,” I replied.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m frazzled” I said, “It’s kind of a long story. We might drink two bottles of wine with our avocado chicken salad tonight!”