If Lucy, the GPS voice in your car, directs you to take the next exit to reach your destination, keep in mind that sometimes Lucy is a lying bitch and a troublemaker.
If you are ever visiting friends and relatives in Erie, Pennsylvania and decide to make a side trip to visit Niagra Falls, be sure to tell Lucy the GPS voice that you mean the USA side of the falls, not the Canadian side.
Neither Lucy nor the exit ramp’s sign mentioned that if you get off at exit #9 as Lucy directed, you will immediately be dumped into eight lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic heading over the Peace Bridge into Canada.
You have no passport because you did not plan to visit Canada.
This gives you about 45 minutes to contemplate your doom. Not only is there nowhere to stop or turn around, but there are also numerous signs warning you that you had better not consider either of those options.
Whenever my sister-in-law, who was driving, and I paused in our shrieking accusations as to whose fault this was, I kept hearing the incessant beeping of the “low gas” warning. There was not a gas station in sight.
As we neared the booth at the border, we began to panic. According to my sister-in-law, once we passed the booth, we were in big trouble. She said that the border guards would thoroughly search the car and everything in it, including removing the seats and emptying the luggage.
I asked her if there was a Dust Buster in the car since it could use a good cleaning while it was emptied out. Maybe if I let the guard keep any change he finds under the seats…
I could almost see the sparks shooting out of her eyes as she growled a warning, “Denise, Do NOT make a single joking remark about bodies in the trunk or cocaine in the glove box! They may pat us down and strip-search us!”
“Really?” I asked, my interest peaked.
“They may even perform body cavity searches!” she shrieked.
“Oh, no, we can’t have that,” I mumbled. “I have hemorrhoids. Geez, don’t panic. It’s Canada; not Afghanistan.”
Just before we reached the booth, my sister-in-law found a small space to pull over, right under a sign that stated in large letters, “DO NOT STOP HERE!”
“Get out and ask what we should do!” she shouted.
“But the sign says…”
When I exited the car, a uniformed security guard rushed toward me and shouted, “Get back in the car!”
“Sorry, ” I said. “Is this Canada?”
“Yes, it is Canada!” he replied.
“Well, I don’t want to be in Canada,” I replied. “I just want to get out of Canada. No offense. I am sure Canada is lovely. I am a huge hockey fan, by the way.”
“Then what are you doing in Canada?” he demanded.
I debated answering, “I came for the delicious Canadian bacon, eh?” But I was discovering that Canadian border guards have no sense of humor. So I said, “Lucy told me to.”
“Who is Lucy?” he demanded.
“Lucy the GPS lady. It is all her fault. How can I get out of here?”
With a sigh of annoyance and an air of regret regarding his career decision to become a border guard, he led us back into eight lanes of traffic heading back over the bridge into the US.
The low gas signal was beeping rapidly by now. Still no gas station in sight.
When we reached the booth on the US side, the guy in the booth stuck his hand out the window and said in a bored monotone, “Passports, please.”
“Uh, we don’t have any passports,” I answered apologetically.
“What do you mean you don’t have any?” he demanded. “Are you both US citizens?”
“Yes, sir. We just got lost on our way to Niagra Falls.”
He demanded that we hand over our driver’s licenses. After he copied the information, the grilling began.
“Where do you live? What are you doing here? Who were you visiting in Erie and what is their address? What relation are they? How long will you be staying? When will you be leaving Pennsylvania?”
Beads of guilt-sweat broke out on my forehead. At that point, I would have admitted to the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby and the fiery crash of the Hindenberg if he would just let us back onto American soil.
Apparently, he suspected that we were armed terrorists; chubby, old lady, bomb-toting terrorists from the rural Midwest, with drugs and stolen federal documents stashed in our support stockings and sensible shoes.
He eventually let us through and after filling the gas tank and consulting a map (we didn’t trust Lucy, the lying bitch anymore), we made it to the Falls.
I bought a ticket to ride the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the base of the falls and back. The weather was blustery, damp, and bitterly cold. I was wearing an ankle-length raincoat, topped by the vinyl raincoat offered by the operators of the Maid of the Mist.
The Maid of the Mist should be renamed the Maid of the Icy, Gale Force Winds and Driving Rain.
As we neared the base of the Canadian side of the falls, the boat began to bounce and roll. The howling wind picked up the edges of the raincoat and it whipped and flapped madly against my sodden body.
Torrents of icy water blasted my face like a fireman’s hose. I tried to get a peek at the falls, but it was as if someone was throwing continual buckets of refrigerated water in my face.
On the bright side, my eyeballs have never been so clean. It was like sticking your face into the ball washer at the golf course.
This must be what it feels like to be in one of those trapped-in-a-storm-at-sea movies. I couldn’t believe I paid $15.50 for this thrill ride. They should have paid ME to take it.
When I got off the boat, in spite of my two long raincoats, my clothes were soaked right to the skin. The damp underwear could have been due to the fear, though, but the rest was courtesy of the “mist.”
Torrents of cold water poured out of my coat sleeves and pant legs. Everything inside my purse was soaked even though it was a tightly zipped leather purse.
I was beginning to hate Canada. I say we invade Canada. I think we could take them. I may shoot the next Canada goose I see.
P.S. If the border guards are tapping my phone and my e-mail to check for signs of terrorist activity, I was joking. Still, I will never eat your bacon again.,
2 thoughts on “OVER THE BORDER WITHOUT A PASSPORT”
What an adventure, Denise. You’ve thrown cold water on any desire I’ve ever had of going to Niagara Falls!
I might go back again, but next time I will bring a passport and choose better weather. The falls were awe-inspiring. From a distance when I was not being pounded by frigid sprays of water.
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