How often have you been that close to danger? Well, it happened to my wife and me; not “danger” per se, but had it turned out differently we would have been, as my wife aptly put it later, “in deep doo-doo”.
And, it happened recently as well. Er, today, to be exact; that is, Saturday, March 16th, 2013.
It all started following a visit to our new home. It was only our third visit there, the first as new owners. We had a lot to discuss: where to put the television, ditto for the computer; what colours the walls would be, where would we put the dining table. And we managed to be quite civil about it, except for the part where I put my foot down and stated categorically that we could forget even getting a television if we couldn’t sit together on a couch. Separate chairs were out!
After about, er, three or four hours, we decided to take a walk. I had been tired the whole day, yawning frequently, but putting my best foot forward, I set off with Adele on a very pleasant walk on the road connected to ours.
This is a very remote part of Quebec and no, I’m not talking about the Far North. Okay, “remote” is stretching it, but during our whole 45-minute walk down the middle of a country road we only came upon passing cars twice. To one side was the Sutton Range with the Missisquoi River accompanying us. To the other was the Green Mountain Range of Vermont with towering Jay Peak not too far off. On our return to the new house my wife asked me if I wanted to continue walking in the other direction. I said no, citing my fatigue. Thank God we didn’t go and you will soon see why.
We got in the car and Adele suggested that we take an alternative route home. “Continue straight,” she suggested, instead of crossing the Missisquoi River into Glen Sutton. The road, in absolutely terrible condition, had a new name: “Cushion Road” and I knew that it would continue to the Canadian and American border crossing at Richford, Vermont.
Do you know Cushion Road? If so, then you know where this story is heading.
Cushion Road follows the Missisquoi River. We remarked, while skirting giant potholes filled with water and slowing down for ripples large enough to slow a truck, that if graded, Cushion Road would be nice to cycle in the summer. “I feel sorry for the householders here, though,” I said. “You’d have to leave at 5 a.m. just to get to Sutton for 8!” That’s how bad the road is at this very moment of Spring runoff.
The road was so bad that I must have missed the sign saying “You are entering the United States”. We finally reached the end of the road and, instead of seeing the Canadian border crossing, we saw the American crossing and a sign, “Report to guard”. “Turn right,” Adele suggested. “I don’t know,” I replied.
I hesitated. The U.S. border guard must see me, I thought. He’ll call me over.
There was no guard.
I finally started turning right very slowly, to where we knew the Canadian border crossing was located. Then I noticed him; the U.S. border guard was waving us to him!
We came over and stopped. He looked in the window. “Passports, please,” he said. “Er,” I said, “we’ve just bought a house in Glen Sutton and my wife suggested that we try Cushion Street.” “There’s a sign back there telling you that you’re entering the U.S.” the border guard said. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Now, the Canadian crossing closes in,” he looked at his watch, “five minutes. If they’re closed when you get there we’re going to have to call the RCMP and you’ll be in a real pickle.”
We gave him our driver’s licences and he took his time checking out the fact that my wife and I are not criminals. We finally got the OK to make a u-turn and headed up a steep hill for the Canadian border. My car clock said 3:58 p.m. The road was blocked in both directions by two long metallic arms. No one came out of the building. Finally, I saw some motion; someone was putting on a coat.
I explained my predicament in French. The guard seemed peeved and then said that it was 4 p.m. She really shouldn’t let me pass but…
The clock in my car was two minutes slow!
Being in Canada never felt so good.
On the road to Sutton we could talk about the ridiculousness of not moving the border a bit so that Cushion Road remains completely in Canada, as well as how small the sign telling us we were entering the States must have been — 200 yards back, the guard had told us — for us to miss it. Or perhaps it is large but we were too engrossed in navigating potholes to have noticed it.
And, the good luck in deciding to not walk a little longer. Even one minute longer on our walk, and instead of writing this story, my wife and I might be sitting on a bench at the U.S. border crossing awaiting the RCMP to let us back into Canada.
Again, we were that close to getting into some serious doo-doo.