Crossing the Border

I was the last car in the slowest line and the ferry from Nova Scotia to Maine had docked more than an hour ago. But the US customs officer took his time – and mine.

First he fed my license number into his computer, and then he took my passport and checked that. And then he emerged from his booth and went behind my car and opened up the back to inspect what I had inside. He sauntered. You could tell that he liked his job, and his black uniform, and his boots, and the gun that he wore at his hip.

“Where you going?”

That information was already written in the customs declaration that he held in his hand.

“Putney, Vermont.”

“Business? Pleasure?”

“Pleasure.”

“How long?”

“Two weeks.”

“And why are you going to Putney, Vermont?”

“I’m attending a workshop on puppets at Sandglass Theatre.”

He was about fifty-five. He had small blue eyes, set high in a clean-shaven red face that glistened with sweat; big jowls, a shaved head, a tightly belted paunch.

“Puppets,” he said, slowly.

He studied my passport again.

“So – there’s money in that. A cost.”

“Well, yes, I pay a fee for the workshop.”

“Where you staying?”

“With a family in Putney.”

“Address?”

“Well – uh – actually, I don’t – well, I don’t know the address. I’ll be introduced to them when I get there. I have the address of the theatre where the workshop takes place – ”

There was another pause as, yet again, two small eyes assessed me, and my car, and the empty lane behind me.

“You got some puppets with you?”

“Well yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”

“How many?”

“About a dozen.”

“About a dozen. They for sale?”

“No, no. I made them myself. It’s – a hobby.”

“Well, sir, we’re going to have to search your car. So you just park over there, and you go inside for your interview – ”

A few hours later, when I arrived at Sandglass, I learned that another participant had also been stopped and searched at the border.

Puppets are dangerous.

BookA Printer's Son