Thursday, January 21, 2021

Border business a bit bewildering

| July 26, 2020 1:00 AM

Three years ago I went on the shortest-ever shopping trip to Canada — around 30 minutes.

Our son is a savvy shopper, the kind who researches online reviews and YouTube videos for everything from tires to air fryers so he gets the best he can afford. Three years ago he was in the market for a decent pickup to pull his camper and found a nice one for sale in Canada. Since he was working out of state he asked me to handle the purchase — a complex, but worthwhile transaction given that with the pickup’s price and the exchange rate at that time it was going to save him around ten grand.

Luke and I worked remotely to copy, sign and notarize all manner of forms and documentation required when importing a vehicle to the U.S. He’d been on the phone dozens of times on both sides of the border to make sure everything would be square.

The morning of the sale we hit a snag. Luke had previously sent the seller a money order, but due to a bank issue it didn’t go through, meaning I had to run to Luke’s local bank on my way out of town to acquire a cashier’s check.

I’d enlisted our friends Tom and Linda to accompany me since I needed another driver to come back with my car.

At the Canadian border the patrol asked me the purpose of my trip; I stated I was buying a truck from a guy over at the American duty-free store. He then asked if I had more than $10,000 on me in cash; I said no, I was carrying a cashier’s check. He seemed unconcerned with the nature of my business and wished me a good visit to his country.

Around the corner at the duty-free store we rendezvoused with the seller. (The guy was sporting copious tattoos.) It was quickly apparent he was familiar and competent with these kinds of transactions. All my reams of documents seemed to be in good order. He handed me the title and we parted ways.

I’m now behind the wheel of a very nice truck, having to quickly examine all the controls just to start it, turn the radio off, lights on, adjust the A/C, open the window … and drive it back across the U.S. border.

I pulled up to the U.S. Customs station. When I stated the purpose of my brief hop across the border, I was asked to pull the truck over to the side and park.

A Border Patrol agent came out of the building, looked under the hood and told me I needed to connect the running lights, which Canadians aren’t required by law to have on their vehicles, but Americans are. Luke had already researched all that and Tom, fuse in hand, had that job buttoned up in no time.

Then I had to go into the station and present the customs officer all my papers and my driver’s license. He stamped stuff and walked away with my license to make a copy, telling me to make sure he didn’t forget to give it back to me. I waited for what seemed like a long time by myself, trying to look like none of this was a big deal, even though it felt a little like I was being “detained.”

The agent finally returned and said I could be on my way.

I reminded him he still had my license. He broke into a big smile, finally, and said, “I knew I was forgetting something!”

Other than needing to take the truck to the local police department the next day for an inspection and to verify the mileage against the VIN number, the whole operation was, as they say, a piece of cake, can of corn.

On the way home I treated Tom and Linda to lunch at a diner just south of the border. Tom suggested we snap a picture of an old beat-up truck in the parking lot and send it to Luke, so I did and sent it to him with a text saying, “Everything went just great!”

Community and Entertainment editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or by email at