Archive for the ‘Passports’ category

Tigers, Tunnels and French Fries

July 28, 2007

It was an exhibition soccer game that was to be played in Windsor, Ontario prior to a Border Stars professional soccer game. My son was invited to play. It would be a nice family type Saturday afternoon activity. We dutifully waited in line at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit with two passports and copies of two sets of adoption papers. It was what we used a month and a half ago with no problem. The Canadian border guard questioned the adoption paperwork but let us through without a problem. Coming back into the US several hours later was stickier. We were told not to have the copies, but to carry the originals…which are safely tucked away in a locked, fire proof box at home. Whew. What 9/11 has wrought! But it isn’t the first time we have run afoul at the border…

Seven years ago I happened upon a deal for professional baseball game tickets. It was a low, low price for a Kids’ Day game that looked interesting. Lots of perks to bring families tot he stadium. My children were seven and almost six at the time. The almost six year old had only been in our home for seven months and was still learning to speak English. The problem was that you had to buy the tickets at the box office and not at one of the more readily available suburban ticket outlets. Sooo….we made a Saturday morning trip of it. We drove into Detroit, found the new Tiger Stadium, played around at the new front gates for a minutes and bought our tickets for a game to be played in another week. Then I had this brilliant idea to take our kids to Canada for lunch. My husband wasn’t too keen on the idea. We didn’t have a lot of cash on hand but I told him there was a McDonald’s just through the tunnel to Canada. It was just the idea of eating in another country, for pete’s sake. How often do we have the opportunity to experience that? Reluctant at first, his enthusiasm grew as we journeyed through the tunnel to Canada and he could see how awed our kids were. We were actually driving under the Detroit River!

On my previous trips to Canada I had been with a friend who knew the ins and outs of Windsor. There was an awesome Italian bakery we liked to visit. We would stop at the border, state our country of birth and our reasons for being in Windsor and travel on through. No big deal. There were similar scenarios occasionally during my childhood when we would plan a day of Canadian shopping. Name, country of birth, reason for being there, travel on. Heh. That was before we needed to state Korea and Russia as orgins of birth.

This time at the border we were asked where we were born and duly stated, Michigan, North Carolina, Korea and Russia. The border guard in the drive through booth’s brows puckered. She peeked in our car. Did we have our adoption paperwork? No. Why not? Didn’t know we needed to carry it. Over to the side, please. My husband looked at me with a certain degree of dismay. We pulled our car over and were met by another of the border’s personnel and were led into an office. My seven year old picked up on his dad’s very real fear and clung to his pants so tightly my husband had difficulty walking. I was dealing with the newly arrived almost six year old who was bouncing and skipping, all the time singsonging probably the only English multi word phrase she knew well at that time – which was “I have to go potty!” I was also trying very hard to hold in the giggles. My husband was turning very real shades of green and red. Emabarassment or fear? I tend to go with the latter…and that was why it was so funny at the time.

There we stood in front of the big, bad border guard in Windsor, Ontario. My husband was fumbling with his wallet, asked me for my driver’s license, which of course I had left in the car and had to retrieve….all the while trying to rein in the ‘I have to go potty’ culprit whose curiousity in everything had piqued. The seven year old still clung to his dad’s pants and peeked around at the big, bad border guard with eyes as wide as an Asian child’s will go. I was giggling. My husband’s face had gone from green to red and was now bordering purple. The big bad border guard glared at us. He looked at my bouncing almost six year old, still singsonging ‘I have to go potty’ and oblivious to everything as she checked out posters and standing ash trays and magazines. Then he glared at my seven year old and barked suddenly, “Who are these people?”

Now a reasonable child have answered ‘My Mom and Dad’. My seven year old clinging to the pants of his fear dripping Dad responded with our actual names – people who could have been just about anyone taking them out of the country. I couldn’t hold it in any more. The whole situation was so bizarre. I grabbed the sing songing almost six year old by the back of her tee shirt and dragged her closer. My gaze went from my wide eyed seven year old who was very proud to have answered the question correctly to my now absolutely purple husband and I chortled. I laughed out loud and then met the gaze of the big bad border guard who actually had the ‘twinkle in his eye’ that you always read about. Hee hee. He glared at me again and told me to keep a copy of our adoption paperwork in the glove compartment from now on. I nodded and grabbed the hand of my purple hued husband with the seven year old now happily bouncing along side of him having solved the problem with his answer to the big bad border guard. I dragged the almost six year old – who still had to go potty – and we got in our car.

My husband was all for skedaddling out of Canada immediately and was not happy when I insisted that we continue the half block to McDonalds. He ordered hamburgers and french fries and drinks while I took the almost six year old to the potty….at last. When I came back the seven year old was swinging his legs in the booth and declaring that he liked ‘their’ fries better and showing off the ‘really cool’ Canadian money they had gotten as change. We ate and headed back to the tunnel. My husband stopped at the border’s tax exempt shop to exchange the Canadian money for American and let the kids buy a small souvenir of Canada…an oversized pencil for him and a little truck for her. We had been in Canada for all of 45 minutes.

Soooo….after this last border encounter, we have finally gotten the message, I think. We are going to apply for passports.

Oh, and we did go to the baseball game a week later where a very happy almost six year old was crushed. She thought she was going to see actual TIGERS play baseball….not a team called ‘Tigers’. But that is another story!