Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 11.08.02
Quebec City


Reluctant to go to America these days

I may never visit the US again.

George Dubya's new emphasis on screening visitors has me spooked.

I've never been a good border crosser in the first place but the thought I might get nabbed and mistakenly deported to, say, Scarborough or Red Deer has me frightened.

Oh, it could happen.

Just look at the Syrian-Canadian who was picked up by the US border officials.

They chose to ignore the Canadian side of his citizenship and now he's somewhere in Damascus. wondering where the nearest Starbucks is.

Then there's the chap in Pohenegamook. He drove forty feet into the States for a little gas -- just like he's done for years -- and found himself in an American hoosegow, wondering if he'll end up in Guantanamo with the rest of the subversives.

It wouldn't be the first time I've run afoul of American customs and immigration.

As a teenager in Niagara, my friends and I used to sally forth across the border to sample the delights of American night life back in the sixties.

One night, crossing the Rainbow Bridge, the border guard asked the usual question, "Where were you born?&quo;t

Two of us replied "St. Catharines." And then a voice from the back seat said "Communist Romania."

The fact that it was the truth, even though Walter had arrived in Canada as a child, didn't seem to matter.

We were given the bum's rush and a stern lecture and found ourselves homeward bound.

Over the years things didn't get any better.

Maybe it was the beard or my age but all through the sixties and seventies, whenever I crossed the border, I was the one Customs chose to search.

Three hundred people would get off a jumbo jet and two hundred and ninety-eight would be whisked through the arrival gate.

This would leave me and the guy with the wrap-around shades, the gold chains, the pinky ring. and the mysterious white powder in his carry-on.

As a result, I never smuggle anything.

As a matter of fact, that's part of the problem.

Whenever I'm asked more than my name and place of birth I tend to panic.

In my frantic attempt to remember if I did inadvertently pack any plants, oranges or tobacco products, I'm sure I take on the demeanor of someone who has a block of plastic explosives in his shaving kit instead of dental floss.

Losing the beard has helped. Travelling with the love of my life has also been a plus.

No one, it seems, suspects her of anything when travelling with me -- except maybe bad taste or bad luck.

But the biggest advantage has been the aging process.

Customs officers tend to look at me now and dismiss the possibility of my being dangerous to anyone or anything.

I don't know whether to be relieved or insulted.

But mark my words, the first time they nab a slightly balding, somewhat overweight terrorist over the age of fifty-five I'll be back in the profile.

Even without my beard.