Crossing into Canada is no small task right now. When we were staying in Lubec, a local man said very flatly, “The Canadians—they don’t want you.” And that is probably true. America’s response to COVID has been an embarrassment and frankly we put more than ourselves at danger by being so collectively irresponsible.
In order to cross, we needed to get a COVID PCR test. No problem. Except that every pharmacy and clinic along the border was booked out by two days. So we schedule. But the Walgreens we scheduled at ran out of tests. Shit. Because another wrinkle is the timeline for tests. You must show proof of the negative PCR test within 72 hours of the test being taken. Many of the pharmacies aren’t returning tests within 72 hours, rendering the test useless for border-crossing purposes.
So we decided to drive south into Bangor where the demand for PCRs is less high and go to a ConvenientMD (who didn’t bill my insurance correctly, by the way and I had to pay $300 out of pocket). We swabbed and then made haste toward the northeast border. (We had run out of time to hit New Brunswick, so we will have to alter our route.)
In the meantime, there’s an app called ArriveCAN that must be filled out ahead of time with a plan (and address) of where you will quarantine if you’re infected. We contacted a VW friend on Facebook, got her address, filled out the app (that includes a specific arrival time), got our tests back and got to border station.
The border agent wasn’t unfriendly, but he was not filled with the warmth and hospitality that Canadians are famous for. Instead, he had deeply judgmental eyes that never blinked. Plus, he was tall and quite muscular. Add in the gun on his hip and the need to have a cadre of travel documents in order and I feel like I’ve done something wrong.
Miracle took care of explaining the reason for our trip to him while he looked over the documents. I mean, we have a podcast! We’re in a classic VW! He wasn’t impressed. He glanced through the back window where Jolene was seated stock still and watching him. “Are you traveling with anything else besides your dog?” he asked.
I mean, we are living in our bus. We have everything in the bus. So I just begin to name things. Groceries, clothes, soap, spices, paper towels, shoes, boots, a purse, some bottled water. Then I begin to run out of things I can remember that we have so I turn around to jog my memory. “Blankets,” I say. “Two actually. One’s wool. The dog’s squeaky toy. Some solar lights. They probably need to be charged. We have a full silverware set. Well, it’s not full anymore because I caught of the forks on fire in Maine—not near the border—this was a week or so ago and I didn’t do it on purpose. I wish it were a spoon because we use those less frequently. No offense to soups. In fact, I think we have a carton of soup in here too.”
Miracle recognized my rambling as the train wreck it was and offered, quite helpfully that she had roller skates in the back.
“Any weapons?” the border agent asked.
“No guns or mace?”
“It’s actually bear spray and not mace?”
Now, I’m not sure why there’s quibbling here. It’s not like if I used the spray intended to debilitate a grizzly bear on a human that it would be ineffective. As if in the heat of the moment, if I had the choice, I would say, “Miracle—quick give me the mace. …No, that’s the bear spray; it’ll never work.”
At any rate, I said I could show the agent the can if he wanted.
“I don’t want you reaching for anything,” he said.
Right. Gun on hip. Judgey eyes.
Neither Miracle or I has ever done any drugs. I mean nothing. Not even a hit off a joint. It’s just something we don’t do. We have no problem with other folks smoking pot. We just don’t do it. That’s all. But what is it when some dude with a badge and a gun questions you that you feel like you might be lying. Maybe I went on an acid trip once and I have no recollection. Could I have ingested drugs accidentally at some point? Maybe I had contact buzz that time I saw Bob Dylan at the outdoor concert in 2009. What did this border guard know about my life that I couldn’t remember. My god, am I an addict? Is this an intervention? More like a revelation because I had no idea that I am a total cokehead until right this minute. All these years I have been delusional like Leonardo DiCaprio in that movie where he thinks he’s solving a crime, but he’s actually insane. Except for years now I thought I just needed coffee from the shop in Xenia, but I’ve been seeing my coke dealer, a scrawny fella named Biscuit who owns a chop shop as a cover story. A cup of coffee is a hit of coke and espresso is some other varietal of coke.
But now we’re here at the border having this intervention and I’m only now 51% sure that I’m not a character from Trainspotting. So I said what I thought was true up until a minute ago and said we had no drugs other than ibuprofen.
The border guard went inside and I began to contemplate what Canadian prison is like. Pretty nice, I figured. Everything’s probably made out of wood, including the cells and I could probably escape… or at least form an organized crime ring inside the joint. I had options.
Then the border guard came back and told us we could go. Into Canada. We crossed the line into Quebec and were greeted by the most amazing colors. I guess colors seem more vibrant after you’re staring down life in the clink.