The one with the friendly border guard

The lovely Lake Carmi, which I might not have seen if not for the friendly border guard.
The lovely Lake Carmi, which I might not have seen if not for the friendly border guard.

WEST BERKSHIRE BORDER CROSSING, Vt. – I’ve written at least two posts on border preparedness. The rules are: Answer only the questions you are asked. Always tell the truth. Have all your documents ready.

The wait to get into Vermont from Frelighsburg, Que., was pretty long, considering it’s a teeny crossing way off the beaten path. The guard was spending at least five minutes with each vehicle, checking every trunk, peering into back windows and opening suitcases.

“This is going to go very poorly,” Melani said, and I shot her a “the hell?” look.

“Is my license suspended?” I asked her, making a mental note to double-check that we’d paid that bloody parking ticket. She takes care of these things for me and she assured me I was driving legally.

“Is there fruit in the car?”

“Nope.”

“Then why would you even say something like that? What’s wrong with you?” She knows I have issues with authority figures and she loves to mess with me.

“Good afternoon,” The guard greeted us. “How long do you all plan to be in the U.S.?” He’s from Vermont, so it’s two words rather than y’all. We told him three or four hours, and he wanted to know where we were headed for just a few hours.

“Lake Carmi. We’re meeting friends from Franklin for a picnic,” I explained.

“Your trunk open?” He was really nice, relaxed. He rooted around in the wayback and laughed, “You’re going to a picnic and you didn’t bring any food.”

Our friend was bringing lunch, and the guard was so non-threatening that I actually laughed. “Yeah, that’s just the kind of guests we are.”

In his booth, he finished inputting our information. “Ma’am,” he said in his friendly way, “Are you aware that your passport has expired?”

And that is when my heart stopped.

I mean, it wasn’t a huge deal to me if we missed the church picnic, because I get shy at those things anyway. But the humiliation of being turned away from a border! Me, who triple-checks our documents even when we’re not going anywhere … plus the cost of passports just went up, and all our extra funds are tied up for our summer road trip … through the States … in two weeks.

My hands were over my mouth. Ridiculously, I suddenly thought he was joshing me. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, ma’am. It expired February 2013.”

“Oh crap. Oh crap.” Then, because there was positively nothing I could do about it at a rural border crossing flat in the north of nowhere, I said, “Well, this is a good time to find out.”

He stifled a chuckle. “Really? I’d think this would be about the worst time you could find out.”

* * *

For the record – according to our uniformed friend, who merrily waved us into Vermont – it’s no problem driving into the States on an expired passport, though we’d be laughed out of an airport.

Nevertheless, with 12 days till Road Trip 2013, it might be the time to look into getting an enhanced drivers’ license.

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