My sons took a four-day trip to Seattle two weeks ago to see an experimental rap band (Death Grips) and take in the sights. It was their first cross-border trip on their own, with my older son taking care of the driving, the hotel, and all the costs. The two of them have never hung out together much, being six years apart, so this would be a good bit of brotherly bonding over a shared musical interest. I myself have great memories of a bus trip to Nashville that my older sister and I took to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry when I was a teenager.
Happy as I was about my sons’ Seattle trip, I’m a bit of a worrier mum, so I thought I would be focused on the potential hazards of highway driving or of being in a strange city on their own. (As I found out later, they actually drove back home through snow and took a walk at night through a not-so-great part of town!) But instead, I was mostly worried about them making it across the border!
With terrorism and border protection being top of mind for many, I wasn’t sure how much scrutiny the two young men might come under. Would border control officers be on the look-out for young men travelling alone? (Has watching too many spy shows made me overly paranoid? Or maybe it’s just watching the news!) Following the advice on the government websites, we tried to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s to make sure that there would be no reason for them to be turned away at the border. Our preparations ensured that they could provide:
- Passports… of course the 16-year-old’s picture was taken two years earlier and he now looks quite different, especially as the once-short hair now hangs to his shoulders! (Too late by the time I looked at it to do anything about getting a new photo taken.)
- Concert tickets and hotel booking documentation, in case they needed to prove their purpose in travelling to the US
- Proof of the older one’s employment and of an address in Canada, so it would be clear they would be returning to Canada
- A letter of permission for the older one to transport the minor child across the border… apparently better if certified by a lawyer. (I read that at 9 pm the night before! Luckily, my next-door neighbour is a lawyer and she actually answered her door at 9 pm on Halloween, with her little ones in bed and she in her pyjamas!)
I also had to convince my younger son that spiked black leather armbands and black Dr. Martens boots might not be the best thing if he wanted to look non-threatening to the officers at the border! It is hard to convince a determined teenager that, even though he has no bad intentions, it is possible for someone in border-protection-mode to get the wrong impression. (“They’re just boots, Mom!”)
My mother always told me that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but in the end, my worries were unfounded. The border officer took a brief look at their passports, asked them where they were going, and waved them on through. Easy as could be! They breathed a sigh of relief and phoned their mum (me) so she could stop worrying too!
My sons were then free to enjoy the concert — apparently so intense that they left before the second (less-loved) band and spent most of the next day in the hotel room resting! During the trip and despite the rain, they managed to see some interesting sites, including a blown-glass exhibit that they found really fascinating. Due to the weather, they decided not to wait in line for the Space Needle, but otherwise they saw most of what they had planned.
Surprisingly to all of us, it was coming back through the Canadian border that they were most thoroughly quizzed: What was their relationship? Where had they been? Where did they stay? What did they see? Who was the bigger fan? Why had the younger one been allowed to miss school? (Bad mother? My question, not theirs. 😊) Who was the car registered to? etc. I wonder if they get a lot of stolen cars being brought into Canada?
While of course I understand the need for heightened security at the borders, I do miss the days of freer movement between countries. Any travel now has to involve careful consideration and planning. (My planning when I drove to Seattle myself a year ago involved buying the audiobook of Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage, read by Richard Armitage, which really made my drive enjoyable — but I somehow doubt my sons were listening to anything like that!) In the end, all was well this time around and my sons had a great time on their trip, independently navigating a number of new experiences.
(Top photo from Clipart Library.)