I got mouthy with a US Border guard 😬
August 30, 2020:
Okay, so I don't always make the best decisions.
It's coming up on 360 days without taking a vacation (yup, I missed Christmas last year) and I think it's high time I took a break.
As the summer is quickly coming to its end and September is upon us, I'm reminded of a Labour Day Weekend when I got a little fresh with a US border guard.
Are you ready for a story? Pull up a freshly-squeezed orange juice and enjoy, cuz it's a fun one!
For Labour Day Weekend in 2014, I got invited to a swank little cottage in the Thousand Islands with a bunch of super fun friends. (Lake! Hot-tub! Friends! Merriment!)
But guess who also had a performance of Beethoven Triple Concerto... right around the corner! Doh, timing!
(The poster is still hanging in my parents' home.)
It wouldn't have been the first time I brought my instrument along with me on vacation... (There was that time in Barbados in 2012, the summer in San Francisco in 2017... oh yeah, Vegas in 2015...)
But how could you blame me? It was a concerto gig!
I wanted to knock it out of the park for my homecoming appearance in Newfoundland! So yes, I did bring my axe.
We picked up groceries on the Canadian side of the border and loaded up the vehicle with a weekend's worth of food for 8 people. Our first stop was to be a dock where two friends would pick up a motor boat and cross the border to head to the cottage. We strategically divvied up the contents of the grocery bags so that the boat friends could take (read: smuggle) the 'forbidden' stuff on our behalf across the border (meats, fresh produce, etc.).
My companion and I blithely continued towards the border in the vehicle eagerly anticipating the refreshing water of the lake upon our arrival. We expected a routine check with smiles at the border and a hearty "Enjoy your weekend".
But that's not what happened.
"Can we open the trunk?"
[Rifling through shopping bags]
..."Do you have anything to declare?"
We looked at each other.
"Please step out of the car."
(What did we do?)
"You can leave everything in the car but take your valuables."
Like any common-sense violinist, I swung my instrument on my shoulder, grabbed my wallet, and proceeded to head towards the customs inspection building. (I once left my violin in the overhead compartment of an airport shuttle bus in Montreal and ever since then, I learned my lesson to never let my instrument out of my sight!... Hey, I was 15, don't judge me...)
Scary Male Border Guard: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? LEAVE THAT IN THE CAR!"
Who was this guy shouting at me? I was not amused.
"But this is my violin..."
Scary Male Border Guard: "YOU WERE TOLD TO TAKE ONLY YOUR VALUABLES."
Me: "...This is valuable to ME!" (Yes, I may have been a little indignant.)
Scary Male Border Guard: "YOU WERE TOLD TO LEAVE EVERYTHING IN THE CAR."
Me: "I was told to take my valuables with me! This is worth MORE THAN THE CAR...!" [hot-headed]
Cue my companion trying to tell me to ... KEEP QUIET.
Half an hour (an hour?) later, Lynn and companion are sitting in hard vinyl chairs awaiting the "questioning".
"Lynn, you DO NOT argue with a *US BORDER GUARD*...! Do you understand??"
Slowly, fear and realization began to settle in.
Lynn began to sweat.
Lynn began to get a little anxious.
Maybe I could have kept my mouth shut...?
Used a few... less words?
What did we have that was triggering suspicion from the border guards??
Stories of violinists with their valuable instruments confiscated at the US border began to swim through my mind.
(They'll take my violin away from me... my bow...I just bought it! ... my concert coming up... I need my violin to practice!)
This was not getting funny.
Our turn for interrogation:
"Please ma'am, [heart pounding] I apologize for my 'attitude' with the border guard... but [sheepishly] he was ALSO giving me attitude..."
(Please don't take my violin away!)
"Would you like to DECLARE anything?"
My companion, the ever smooth communicator, spotted a telling glint in the Border Guard's eye.
(Declare WHAT though? What did we possible have in our car that we needed to declare?)
My companion caught the look: "Ok, yes. I think we will say that we have items to declare."
The border guard then revealed that should we have chosen "Nothing to Declare", we would have been subjected to a FINE.
But for what??
*$60* PER ITEM not declared.
3. single. lemons.
Still frazzled from our nerve-wracking ordeal, we arrived to find our friends knocking back beverages, laughing heartily at our much delayed arrival from within the steaming luxuries of the hot tub.
I clutched my violin close to me not quite ready to part with it. The hot tub was beckoning however, as was the promise of a beverage garnished with a lemon wedge...
The only story that tops this border-crossing story is the time I got pulled out of a train in the middle of the night crossing the Ukrainian-Hungarian border (also involving my violin!) I'll have to tell you that story next time!
Moral of the Story:
Lynn doesn't always make the best decisions.
Lynn still foolishly takes her violin on vacations.
Will Lynn be taking her violin on bay-cation this year?
And please don't laugh:
I'm planning on bringing 3 lemons for the trip.