Friday, November 2, 2007

Bored at the border

On Tuesday morning Natalie, David and I set out for New York city to collect our Reader's Choice award from SpaFinder Magazine. This year the awards are being handed out as part of a consumer trade show at Grand Central Station. We had our truck all loaded up with signs and props to make our little 10X10 booth look inviting. As we approached the checkpoint at the border David told me that I shouldn't make any jokes with the border guards. Probably good advice given the power these guys have over you. Our guy was nice enough, asking the usual questions about citizenship, where we were going, how long we would be away, and the purpose of our trip. When we told him we were going to a trade show in the big apple, we seemed to pique his interest. He made his way towards the boxes in the back of the truck and started pulling things out, starting with a bar of Aveda soap (made in the U.S.A., but still suspicious). He was soon joined by two more members of the Homeland Security team who also started rummaging through the boxes as though they had just stumbled upon a Saturday morning garage sale. One of the burly men pulled a bathrobe out of a box, and exclaimed "oh boy", while his colleague pulled a teddy bear out by the scruff of his neck, saying "have a look at this". Trouble with a capital "T". We were ordered to park the truck and come inside their headquarters, where there were at least another 10 or 12 very bored, but serious looking men and women in black, armed to the hilt. I was the only potential criminal in the joint. You see, there are very specific rules about importing textiles into the United States, not to mention teddy bears. In the end, I was given a stern lecture, charged $10.75 and sent on my way. All in all though, I felt better knowing that our border is safe from the forces of evil, thanks to the increased vigilance of our men and women in uniform, and the great wisdom of George and Dick up in head office. Holding a spa show at Grand Central station was an interesting concept. Quite a broad cross section of people have passed by our booth, most asking where Ste. Anne's is, a surprising number wincing when we say Canada - a place that a majority of New Yorkers apparently associate with unbearably cold weather. The booth next to us was handing out little individually wrapped pieces of chocolate, which they had to hide from regulars who would circle their booth grabbing a handful of chocolate at a time. My favourite visitors were the elderly New York matrons who visited us, fully bejewelled, hair dyed and made up as though they were on their way to play a part in a Broadway musical. I'm not sure how many of the people we spoke to will be heading north any time soon - the new found weakness of the U.S. dollar is bound to impact their enthusiasm for travelling too far afield. However, I always enjoy New York, and sincerely hope that things will soon improve for this once great "super power", who I found myself feeling sorry for, more than anything. Not only did their leaders let them down on 9/11, since then they have kept them in a prolonged state of fear and isolation.

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