This summer I had occasion to stand in front of an immigration official who wouldn’t let me out of his country and back into my own.
He was right, of course. I was undocumented. And how it happened was entirely my own fault.
My husband, Doug, and I were in Ontario, Canada, and decided, impulsively, to take a boat cruise through the Thousand Islands. The weather had cleared and we had time.
We chose the longest cruise, which included a stop at a castle–I had no idea what that meant, but I’m always up for a castle–and the boat was leaving in 5 minutes! We literally ran to board the boat. We didn’t realize we’d be in international waters and the castle was in the US.
Doug had his drivers license in his wallet but I had nothing. I had sunglasses and a hat.
Yes, I’m a feminist. But the kind of feminist who expects her husband to carry the cash, and perhaps the tube of sunscreen when she needs it.
As we waited for all the other passengers to be checked through, I said, confidently: “They’ll let us through.”
Doug said: “Why should they?”
I looked back at the boat. “Well, they’re selling cold beer and snacks, so it’s not too awful if they don’t.”
Still, the castle was right in front of me and I did want to tour it.
I whispered to Doug with great bravado: “They can’t detain me, I’m an American citizen!”
But without my passport in hand, I was nobody, of course. It was a curious, disempowered feeling. One could even get existential. After all: Who am I?
When everyone else in our group had gone through, Doug explained to the official that we had left our passports in the glove compartment of the car–for safekeeping–not realizing we would be getting off the boat.
The official wearing the maple leaf was bemused at our stupidity. He said, “People take this cruise in order to tour the castle. There are signs all over the office.”
I know better than to open my mouth in these situations. My husband is ever so much more polite and gracious than I am. So I let him handle these sorts of things. (Add that to the list of things he carries for me . . . cash, sunscreen, civility.)
Doug said: “I’m sorry, sir. We were in a hurry and didn’t notice the signs. Here’s my drivers license.”
Using our Social Security numbers, the official was able to track our entry into Canada earlier that morning.
“Welcome to America,” he said. “Enjoy the castle.”
Me with Hat Hair. Doesn’t Doug look prepared? He’s a Boy Scout.