Friday, August 18, 2017
SITTING ON THE ‘GROUP W’ BENCH
… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…
Years ago, when visiting Canada – and this is no joke – I’d approach the border, the uniformed agents would raise their welcoming arms, say, “Hi, Dave” and wave me through.
Then we experienced 9-11.
It had been a while since I’d visited our neighbors to the north, but on a circuitous trip involving the famed Selkirk Loop, the border agents asked for something I knew I wouldn’t need to carry – because, hell, they knew me and greeted me like family – a Passport.
“Where’s your document, sir?” (Not Dave? What the heck?)
“I think it’s in my sock drawer at home.”
“Okay.” I signed. “What am I signing?”
“A document that says you’re voluntarily returning to the United States.”
“B.. b.. but…”
Six years have elapsed since that little debacle now indelibly recalled as how Mr. Brilliant spoiled the Great Selkirk Loop Trip, and I am again attempting to gain access to Canada. This time I am armed with my handy wallet-sized passport card that will afford quick and undetained entry into Canada.
As the customs lady swipes my card and asks where I was from, I know I’ll breeze right through. She asks about any contraband – weapons, alcohol – I might be carrying – “None, thank you.” – and if I have any questions for her. Since she was in customs, I thought I’d ask about the whole about/aboot custom, when she says “Uh-oh,” and pulls my card back. “Have you ever been denied access to Canada before?”
I begin to tell her about leaving my passport in my sock drawer at home once in the years after 9-11, but she cuts me off – politely, mind you – and says, “I’d like you to pull over into that space with the big W on it.”
Channeling Arlo Guthrie, I remember that group W is where they put you because “you may not be moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug,” but all I’d done was to forget to pack my passport a half-a-dozen years back. And on this day I have one!
The delay is brief, perhaps only ten minutes, NOT enhanced by my riding partner, from the other side of the gate, yelling, “Frisk him for drugs!”
As we weave our way through the streets of Victoria, I offer involuntary tribute to Osama bin Ladin: a man who’s legacy carries forth long after his unceremonious burial at sea.
Church of the Open Road Press