Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The US – Canada “Peace Arch” border crossing, south of Vancouver, has always been a slightly Kafkaesque experience. In fact, until I got a second, “clean” passport (in which I don’t allow visa stamps from the Islamic Republic of Anywhere) and the new passport card, I used to be routinely “orange carded” upon entering the States, requiring interviews with various INS morons about my activities in countries they couldn’t pronounce or find on a well-labeled map.
My favorite television commercial from the Olympics nicely parodies the experience of crossing into the US from Canada.
My experience going the other way has always been different. Sure, Canadian Border agents are probably no smarter than their American counterparts, wear essentially the same uniforms, ask the same questions, and have the same concerns and jurisdiction. But there is a marked contrast in tone. The same questions asked accusingly by the American officers are asked politely and without any sense of prejudice by the Canadian officers. Going south, one is essentially told, “Okay, we’ll let you enter the US.” Going north, the tenor of the message is, “Welcome to Canada.”
This is a story of a northward crossing.