Me? A common criminal?

We don’t cross the border that often to collect goods we have shipped within the US. I would say it’s on average 3-4 times a year. Whenever I do go I take the dog to the beach. On a clear blue sunny day like today, there is a stunning view of Mount Baker from Point Roberts Lighthouse Park. We recently ordered some clothing from a US company that aims its products at outdoorsy people. Although we can buy in Canada, the amount of choice is limited & we were both looking for very specific styles. I decided that I would pop down today, take Tess to the beach & pick up the parcel. I planned to go straight from the school drop off.

The first indication that this was going to be one of those days was a phone call from elder child about 5 minutes after I’d dropped him off. Today was the first day for using their iPads again & he’d forgotten his. I told him that I would go home & pick it up for him, but if he forgets it again he has to take responsibility for it, I won’t be picking it up again. So, after going home & back to school again, I was late getting away & therefore hit a lot of traffic.

Getting to Point Roberts was a bit of a drag but I pulled up outside the shipping company at about 9.30. I collected the bag of clothes, opened it, glanced inside, noticed the invoice tucked between the items, and then set off to the beach. I walked on the beach with the dog for about 45 minutes. It was a gorgeous day but there was definitely a nip in the air & it was quite breezy. I decide to head back to the border. I have done this enough times now to know the drill.

I was asked to produce my Nexus card… what my license plate was… how long had I been over the border… did I have any goods returning to Canada… then, what was the value of the goods. I had answered every question without hesitation until that one. I genuinely had no idea how much; hubby had placed the order & had received all the correspondence I couldn’t have even guessed. I stuttered, & began to shake a little, trying to clumsily extract the invoice from the bag. That was when it all started to really go wrong. The invoice just itemized the contents & it’s individual cost, not a final total. Math is not my strong point even when I’m not under pressure. I scanned the figures & stupidly guessed, then corrected myself when I realized it was probably more. It was all over by this point he was already completing the yellow slip of shame that I had to take into the office. The worst bit was yet to come, he informed me that if the total of the goods is more than $100 over my declaration I could have my Nexus card taken form me. I almost threw up into his booth!

I did as the officer instructed, then presented myself to one of his colleagues in the office. The second guy was a bit nicer & not so abrupt, but he still gave me lecture. Then informed that he would only give me a warning this time, & this would be noted on my Nexus card. If this happens again I would have it confiscated. I could feel tears prickling at the back of my eyes. I was made to feel like a criminal, when I had made a genuine mistake, & the duty I had to pay was not even the issue. I know I should have had the amount calculated before I tried to cross the border, but honestly, I didn’t think to do so. I am normally so particular about these things, & nine times out of ten I’ve ordered so I already know the price. Then…

He asked me for my keys so he could search the vehicle. OMG! I had done nothing wrong, what did he expect to find. Poor Tessy was in the back too. He asked me to remove her, and then he & his colleague then put on gloves – GLOVES – like I’m a drug dealer or a murderer for god’s sake – they searched everywhere. Under the booster seat, in the glove compartment, under the drivers seat, in the trunk – EVERYWHERE!! I can’t even begin to describe to you how this felt. I was shaking, worried that they were going to find something that I knew wasn’t there. It was a total nightmare.

I then had another 10 minutes of waiting in the office until they returned my keys & Nexus card. I was in absolute tatters by this point & probably not concentrating very well driving home. I felt like a common criminal. I can’t even begin to imagine ever trying to cross again!

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