I have relatives who've moved to Western New York. They are within driving distance. I'm not a Bills fan, but I like chicken wings and reasonable prices and sales clerks who actually smile and say "Hi" when you walk into their shops. I already visit the United States a fair amount. Like a lot of Canadians, I have many friends and family there. I feel at home in the States. Now I'll be going there more often. The scales have been tipped. I'm going for my Nexus card.
What's that? You've never heard of Nexus?
Don't be confused. It's not the Henry Miller novel, it's the system designed to make it easier for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States to get border approval. Once you have a Nexus card, you can use automated self-serve kiosks at designated international airports and, more importantly, you can use designated lanes at the land border crossings.
That means that instead of sitting for countless hours on the verge of peeing your pants, you can breeze on by.
The importance of this mobility was driven home a few weeks back at the crossing into New York State. We were driving over to visit said Yankee relatives and showed up bright and early at the border. I thought about stopping at the duty free – not to buy alcohol and smokes but to relieve my bladder – but we figured, hey, we've made good time, why not push on?
We're almost there! We could practically see the friendly heavily armed population.
How wrong we were. How very wrong. Did I mention we were wrong?
That little line? It snaked on forever. It crawled. It inched. Minutes became half hours and I was certain I was going to wet myself. Not an uncommon experience for those travelling to America.
I've heard legends of five-mile back ups. We Canadians are used to suffering for a chance to experience (read: buy) the good life (a cheap flat screen, a charming lamp). It was worse in the 1990s when the Canadian dollar was worth 30 cents U.S. Today we're at par and they're making us pay.
The sign above the Duty Free Shop at the U.S./Canada border should read, "Evacuate all bladders, ye who enter here."
That's because, as anyone who's zipped across the border knows, once you pass a certain demarcation there is no turning back. You are locked in a jam of cars and there is nowhere to go and nothing you can do. You are not legally allowed to exit your vehicle. Who knows what would happen if you did? I've heard the only way you can get away with leaving your car when you're waiting is to have a stroke.
Funny how congenial you get when you think you're going to wet yourself with great vigour. By the time we got to the border guard, I was ready to do anything to get to a restroom. Was the border official sore about the War of 1812? I was ready to stomp on a picture of the Queen and give General Brock's statue the finger. Was he upset about the Bills' poor showing the last few years? I was ready to do what I could to heal the wounds – just so long as he let me cross into the good old U. S. of A. where I would be able to empty my bladder.
By the time I got to the head of the line, the backed-up fluids had done such a number on my head, I was convinced I was going to blow the oral exam.
"Where you coming from sir?"
"Uh, oh … back there. I mean Canada."
"Where do you live, sir?"
"Purpose of your visit?"
"I'm asking you, sir."
"War of 1812."
"I'm sorry about that. Totally a tie. I mean victory, victory for you, the United States. You always win. Jim Kelly nailed that thing."
Somehow we got through. Perhaps the border guard took pity on me.
On the way back, I learned my lesson and consumed no liquids 12 hours prior to getting into my automobile. It was then I saw the empty Nexus line at the border crossing into Canada. No cars – a clear lane. That's it, I thought. I'm going to get myself approved for one of those and then drive back and forth all day long.
Buffalo, here I come.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy