A CAUTIONARY TALE
My sad tale begins last Sunday morning, when I agreed to travel with my wife to a collage workshop in the Chicago suburbs. She had a two hour dog and pony show from 10:00am-12:00pm. There were about 20 people in attendance and they had some great questions about printmaking in general and paper specifically. It was the highlight of the day. Of course, if you read further you'll probably see that a root canal could have been the highlight of that particular day, had it not been for such a great event. Susan and Pete did a great job presenting on the papers we brought with us.
Fast forward to 10:30 pm after a long drive from Chicago to the threshold of Canada - Windsor, Ontario and the world famous Ambassador Bridge. We approached the bridge assuming that at that hour the crossing would be uneventful - well, not so much as it turns out. There were hundreds of cars, but we seemingly chose the right lane and in just a few minutes (well, maybe 20 minutes) we were at the check point. A few routine questions followed - what was the purpose of our visit? How long would we stay? Did we have any goods for sale? etc. We were, in fact, on our way to a workshop put on by the Japanese Paper Place in Toronto. We were staying for two days, and we had nothing that we would be selling. Seems pretty straight forward to me.
We were selected for a "random" inspection at the check point, which caused us to be separated from the herd and sent inside to Canadian Immigration where our car was inspected by a nice young man. After an uneventful inspection, we were given a yellow sheet of paper and instructed to go inside and have it stamped.
Up to this point, a grand total of about 15 minutes had elapsed from the check point to the completion of the inspection. We foolishly believed that we'd be on our way to Toronto in just a few minutes. Oh to be that naive again!
We were greeted eventually by 13089 (that's not her real number, we've changed it to protect the - I was going to say innocent but instead I'll go with grumpy). She started out mad before we could even say hello, and it got a lot worse. 13089 wanted to see our invitation to Canada! Surprisingly, we did not have one, thinking that a trip to visit an art workshop and visit with friends would be a fairly simple thing.
Here, however, is the cautionary part of our tale. Several days after the fact we researched Canadian Immigration standards, and in fact, an invitation can be required and 24 hour contact information for the host can be required! Don't venture across that border without documenting the daylights out of why you are going.
Two hours later, without exaggeration, we were able to find someone who could fax a printout from a web page about the workshop. Our stalwart Immigration Officer was apparently done tormenting us, and allowed that we should have told her that at the beginning...which of course we had tried to, but she didn't want to listen, she wanted to talk.
All in all, it was a particularly unpleasant first impression of Canada. We've been to Canada fairly frequently over the years - usually for some semblance of business (trade shows, workshops and sales calls) and never had even a slight problem in this regard. Could it be a backlash at the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup? Whatever it was I will from this day forward, only visit our neighbors to the North for pleasure.