Wednesday, October 29, 2014

United States Border Crossings

I thought that our border crossing into the United States deserved special attention. We are often asked how difficult it is to cross these borders in a vehicle and with a cat. Generally it is very straight forward.

The first border crossing was on a Wednesday morning in October at Philipsburg, Quebec south of Montreal. Traffic was extremely light. We stopped at the Duty Free to buy cigars. Sixty-five cigars to be exact. Then off to the border crossing.

Two lanes were open and only one car in front of us. Perfect, we should be on our way within 90 seconds. But no. We ended up with a chatty officer. He asked where we would end our day and I said Albany, N.Y. He asked where our final destination would be and I said Oaxaca, Mx. This did not seems to raise his interest. Tanya also said that we had a cat with us and if he wanted to see our Record of Good Health documents. No that was fine he said.

Next he asked if we had any fruit or food which we indicated, no. Then he asked if we had any alcohol or tobacco. I said that we had just bought cigars at the Duty Free. I did not say anything about the 12 bottles of wine and port we had with us. Well, the cigars perked his interest. He got out of his shack and walked around to the passenger side of the van. He opened the side door and peered in. I pointed out the bag with the cigars and he looked inside and asked if any were Cuban. No, they were Nicaraguan and Dominican.

Then he leaned over right into the van to look at Diego our cat who was sitting in the litter box at that time. "Oh, there's the cat." he said and then returned to his shack.

He still held on to our passports and started telling us about his three cats. He had two cats and then another turned up, "You know how it is." he said. He described his cats and from time to time he glanced at his computer. Was he delaying us while he was waiting for some report on his computer? Maybe.

Finally, he handed back our passports and wished us a safe stay in Mexico. All of this probably did not take longer that 5 minutes but when we are used to a cursory glance and few questions it seemed very long. And surprisingly, he never commented on the super loaded van or what was in there. He didn't follow up on the alcohol either. I don't expect that our personal bottles would have been an issue anyway. Then off we drove.

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