Monday, March 21, 2011

Travelogue Toronto: Day 1: Arrival

Of all the places I have traveled outside the country, the only border I have EVER been turned back at was the Canadian Border. I cannot help but think of that every time I cross a border, specifically, whenever I cross the Canadian border.

Many years ago, I got a call at the last minute to do a quick consulting visit to a client about six hundred miles from my home, just across the border in Canada. As it was last minute, the tickets were exorbitant, I volunteered to drive-up to save my clients some money and to get a nice road trip under my wheels. Had I know that the border agent was going to be a total tosser I might have not been so nice to the clients.

I drove a good part of the day and approached the border just north of a small town in Montana in the mid-afternoon. It seemed, that my explanation of going to a client to discuss their software needs, and to help them through a problem they were having was not good enough for the border agent. He insisted on seeing a letter from my client in Canada and from my employer in The States clearly stating why I was crossing the border, and verifying that I was not there to take one of those lucrative Canadian jobs.

Back then, the Canadian dollar was worth about 76₵ (US) and my clients constantly accused Americans (by which they meant US Citizens – Ironically, they would pitch a fit if we called ourselves that, "Canada is a part of America" they would protest, meaning the continent, not the country. By I digress…) of treating Canada like the world's biggest garage sale. These days the dollars hover around parity.

So this border guard turned me back at the border. Being a Sunday afternoon, there was nothing for it but for me to stay a night in the border town on the US side, and get the documents he had demanded faxed to me at the motel. The next morning, I pulled-up to the crossing, got out, went in to hand over my documents only to be told that due to NAFTA, there was no such documentation required.

It was just a border guard who was flexing his proverbial muscle, but aside from getting me to spend more time and money in the states that would have been spent in Saskatchewan, he really accomplished nothing. I think of that every time I cross a border. What fun awaits me on the other side of that desk? Will this border be a line on the map or a wall in my way?

It was just a line this morning. I crossed into Canada at 01:13 this morning and reached the hotel and my room just before two. I have had a few hours' sleep, and now am ready to head into the client's office and get to work!

Wherever you are today, I hope your day will be a productive one!

Don Bergquist – 21 March 2011 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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