My Event With Canadian Customs

I attended FITC Toronto a few weeks ago and heard a great talk by Kyle McDonald. During his talk, he told us of when the Secret Service came to visit him and I imparted my Canadian Customs story. I was encouraged to write it down, so here it is. Definitely one of my favourite stories to tell.

My brother and I landed at the Buffalo International Airport from our trip to Dallas, Texas. We had left my father’s car there a week earlier and now we were heading home. I made sure that my cargo had been in my name and that my suitcase was in my brother’s name. His luggage went on board with him.  I had prepped him before crossing the border back into Canada. Understand, my brother is autistic and has Tourette’s Syndrome, so at first glance, he may seem to Customs Officers like he’s on something or nervous. If I don’t prep him and something unusual happens, he gets very frazzled.

When we drove up to the booth the conversation with the Customs Officer went as follows (I’ve left out the boring stuff):

Officer: “Citizenship?”

Me: “Canadian.”

Officer: “Where are you coming from?”

Me: “Dallas, Texas”

Officer: “What was the purpose of your visit?”

Me: “Attending a wedding.”

Officer: “Who’s wedding?”

Me: “My cousin’s.”

Officer: “How long have you been gone?”

Me: “Seven days.”

Officer: “What is the total value of goods that you are bringing back?”

Me: “I’m bringing back about $700 and my brother has about $150.”

Officer: “Any tobacco?”

Me: “No, sir.”

Officer: “Any alcohol?”

Me: “A 500 mL bottle of liqueur for my mother.”

Officer: “Any weapons or firearms?”

Me: “Yes, sir.”

Officer: “Excuse me?”

Me: “Yes, sir.”

Officer: “What are you bringing back?”

Me: “A sword.”

Officer: “What kind of sword?”

Me: “A Japanese katana.”

Officer: “What is the total value of this sword?”

Me: “$99.”

Officer: “Really? Okay, is it easily accessible that I can take quick look at it?”

Me: “Yes, sir. It’s in the trunk of the car in a box.”

Officer: “Do you mind popping the trunk so I can take a look?”

Me: “Not at all.”

He goes around to the rear of the car where I’d popped the trunk to investigate. About a minute later he comes back and says: “I see it’s wrapped up, so I’m going to have to send you over to the side there so someone can take a better look. It’s just a formality, but it’s protocol.”

Me: “I understand and expected that. No worries.”

He handed me a slip of paper and I drove to the side and waited in the car as he instructed until told to do otherwise. Within a minute or two, our car was approached by two female officers, each going to either side of the car. The one on my side addressed me and said: “So, what’s this we hear about a sword?”

I simply replied: “Yes, ma’am.”

Officer: “All right then, could you please leave everything in the car and I’m going to ask both of you to exit the vehicle.”

Me: “Yes. Ma’am.”, at which point I turned to my brother and repeated the instructions to him to make sure he understood them. We both exited the car and walked around to the open trunk. At this point, I’m wondering what they are more concerned with; the insurance cost to them if they break anything or that they may have a woman yielding a sword at customs.

Me: “Would you like me to take it out of the box?”

Officer: “Yes, please.”

After lifting it out of the box, “Would you like me to take it out of the cloth?”

Officer: “Yes, please.”

I untied the cloth and removed it to show the sword laid out over my two hands. “Would you like me to take it out of its sheath?”

Officer: “You don’t have to, but… Do you mind? We’d love to see you do something with it.”

Me: “Sure!”

I did a couple of forms that took all of about a minute, they smiled and thanked me as they signed off on my slip and sent us on our way.

Every once in a while, I hear my brother utter under his breath: “Sword…” and I know that he is recounting this story in his head.


Speakers’ Corner – London Style

My mother and I decided to take a stroll through Hyde Park this past Sunday on our way back from having toured London most of the day. We’d heard something about this speakers’ corner and thought it might be fun to just watch what happens. So much for that!

As we went through, there were crowds around various people who were ranting on top of their step ladders, going on to anyone that might listen. I stopped to listen to one older woman who looked like she was about to go head to head with another man on a stool and wanted to hear what was being said. Her argument: England for the English. Another man who was obviously from another country, argued with her and was light spirited about this. I had to take a line from one of my recent favourite comedians, Papa CJ, as turned to my mother and said “Watch this.”

I pleaded for everyone’s attention when I addressed the crowd around when I claimed that if England was for the English, they should have thought of that before they invaded everyone else, like India and the West Indies and brought all of the people back to be slaves. They should have realized the consequences of their actions when they did so and then it might still be England for the English. She then said, “Well then, why do you live here?” (since most of her argument had been about foreigners coming to the country and living off the backs of the hard-working English). I replied: “I don’t! So you can’t blame me if you don’t like the way this country is. I have English influence everywhere from Canada where I was born, to my British mother and my Indian father.”

She had nothing to say against it, so she attacked my heritage instead. “So, you’re Indian then? Go back to India!” After arguing that I was Canadian, she claimed that I was who my father was, even if it was my mother who carried me for nine months. “Well, that was her mistake!”

I lost it! “Mistake? You want to tell her that? She’s right here!” Then she started telling my mother how it was her problem if she gave up being British and married an Indian. No one attacks my mother like that and before you know it, we were both in the mix. I made one maybe two other points and then left the crowd as everyone there applauded my statements, which apparently were the best ones to shutting her up for a good part of the day.

It made my day. The pot is being stirred, even on this side of the pond…;)