It is about 1:30 in the morning at the US-Canadian border crossing in Vermont and 40 or so bleary-eyed, frumpily dressed travelers are waiting to be interrogated. I’m among them, next in line, in fact, my blue duffel bag slung over my shoulder stuffed to bursting with haphazardly packed dirty laundry. It is just now starting to dawn on me that the gruff border guard standing 15 feet away is going to have to stick her hand inside this mess and root around. Lucky the woman has gloves.
For now, though, she is in the middle of grilling a fellow passenger and I am listening in. As is everyone else, of course.
No, he does not have any weapons. Yes, he has two cans of beer in his bag. No, no tobacco. He is going to Boston to visit a friend for the weekend. Yes, he will be staying with her. Oh, yes, actually, she is his girlfriend. And why didn’t he mention that before? Here he falters for a moment, taken aback in his sleepy stupor by this sudden line of questioning. “Um?”
I want to chime in from my place behind the yellow line with a reminder that A) it is 1:30 in the morning and B) whether or not he has sexual relations with that woman this weekend doesn’t seem very vital to national security.
He settles for a much less aggressive shrug and some confused mumbling, and the agent relents and begins rooting through his bag. She finds pills which he says are for his blood pressure, and she asks him to have a seat with an implied “we’ll deal with you later” expression.
“Next!” she calls, and I shuffle forward.
The United States coat of arms glitters under the station’s fluorescent lights on the cover of my blue passport, so even as they search my smelly bag they don’t ask me very many questions before sending me back aboard the bus to wait.
And wait. And wait. And wait.
Crossing the border by bus can take hours. It is an obscenely long amount of time for two such friendly nations, and it rankles my latent libertarian sensibilities every time. What business is it of theirs where we are going and what we will do there? I feel nostalgic for a time I do not even remember when Canadians and Americans barely needed a driver’s license to get waved on through.
Every time I find myself at this border in the middle of the night, crammed into an aggressively heated bus with my knees locked and neck aching, engulfed in Greyhound’s signature eau de socks and sweat, I grumble to myself “never again.”
And yet, of course, once we have finally cleared the border I always drift off to sleep and by the time we have reached our destination and I have alighted from the sauna on wheels, I invariably change my tune.
I made it! I’m here! Thank you, Greyhound. Thank you, Eisenhower, for these amazing interstates. Thank you, world, for delivering me.
I was filled with a special kind of gratitude when I went home this past weekend for a long-planned little visit. Nor’easters (treacherous winter storms endemic to the New England area) have no respect or consideration for your plans. No, you plan around them.
My midnight bus pulled into South Station around 7:30 in the morning, and not a moment too soon. For the rest of the day I watched from my parent’s cozy home as the Massachusetts coast was covered in white. It was stunning.
The weekend was actually book-ended by two heavy snows, and yet by some miracle my travels were not interrupted in either direction!
I had the loveliest little break at home, and returned to Montreal recharged.
- I voted! I went to register to vote as a Massachusetts resident and was able to cast my absentee ballot right away. Civic duty, check.
- Speaking of civic duties: I filed my taxes. Boy, are taxes quirky. Despite not personally living or working in the state Pennsylvania for over a year, I ended up owing them $1 in income tax.
- I got a new computer! A Lenovo Yoga 700 (sorry – Sam is the only cool Mac user here). It’s a smaller replacement for my old Lenovo Yoga which I adored but hit the pavement one fateful afternoon on my walk to the library (the library of all places!) and hasn’t been the same since.
- You’re supposed to go home for the weekend to enjoy Mom’s cooking and do your laundry. I did plenty of both, but I tried to flip the script a little and make dinner for my parents and, not to totally brag, it was kind of the best meal ever. No big deal. In honor of Mardi Gras I made my jambalaya and a King Cake, and it really blew everyone away. I earn my keep when I visit.
Ordinarily, King Cakes are frosted with a white glaze and then colored purple, gold, and green with sugars, but we could not find purple sugar anywhere. I made do with colorful frosting. I stuff my King Cakes with an ooey, gooey cream cheese and toffee filling. YUM!
- A beach covered in snow is still a fun experience, especially if you have a playful dog for company.
- We watched the Super Bowl with only small traces of bitterness (okay, lots of bitterness. But we’re in New England, okay? Can you blame us?) Thank goodness for Beyoncé.
Did anyone out there get stuck in the snow? Or perhaps stuck at the border?