This morning we headed into Niagara Falls. Needed a few items on the grocery list that we can’t always find here at our little Valu-Mart or the Sobey’s in Fort Erie. We didn’t dawdle coming home, as we sometimes do, because of the ice cream and popsicles purchased for these unbearable hot days that are upon us. On the drive home, Nat turns to me and asks “what’re we doing for lunch?” “Well”, I giggled, “I have a bit of an idea”. “Somehow, I knew you would”, was dear hubby’s reply. I went on to explain that ever since we drove by the (fairly) recently built new Duty Free Shop down by the border, and noticing that they had a MacDonald’s and a Tim Horton’s, and as I’ve not had a Big Mac in years, I’ve suddenly developed a Big Mac Attack. So, what say we go down there, have a bite to eat – you at Timmie’s and me at MacDonald’s – have a little look around and then wander home? “That’s an idea”, replied Nat.
After dispensing of the frozen products and other grocery items in our bags, we checked on Google Maps just to make sure we knew how to get into this place. Having passed it many times we were fairly certain, but our brains needed just that extra step!! So getting there was the easy part – it was getting out that posed the major problem!!! After having a nice lunch and my “attack” being squashed, we had a nice look-see at all that was shiny and smelly. The jewellery, the watches, the perfume and chocolate were forbidden fruit as we had no intention of continuing across the big Niagara River that etched out the Canada-U.S. border. Nat had noted, during lunch, that perhaps we may have to cross into the U.S. only because he couldn’t really see any way out of the place. I was confident and a bit cocky, as usual, that he was wrong. Once leaving the building, Nat had a walk about to see exactly where all the roads were leading to. He really couldn’t see any route back into Fort Erie and was now wondering what to do. We tagged a Duty Free employee and began to ask which way home. Boy oh boy, was he right and man oh man, was I wrong!!! As it turns out you have to virtually cut through traffic headed to the U.S., do a U-turn and head across the way and over to where Canada Customs booths are all lined up in a row ready, willing and able to hopefully get you back from whence you came. After asking how the employees get home, her response was “through Canada Customs each and every night”.
The line-up to get across to the U.S. was by now extensive. We could tell it was going to be a long haul home, or so it seemed. How in hell was any vehicle sitting in that hot, frustrating and slow-moving line, going to let us cut through to get to the other side. As luck would have it we flagged down one of several people wearing traffic vests and directing traffic out of the Duty Free Shop and into their proper places. We told him our little story of “Ooops, we screwed up” and he re-assured us he gets that a lot, only it’s people making the wrong turn and not being able to get out. He’s never had any “locals” decide to purposely go to Duty Free, have lunch and then think they can go home again!!! Always a first time, buddy!!!! He directed us to the right lane which, thankfully, was smaller than the others and within five or ten minutes we were up to where we were told we could make a U-Turn back to Canada Customs.
Arriving at the Customs booth the Officer asked her usual questions – where have you been, etc. – wherein Nat explained what had happened. “So, you didn’t know that once you go into the Duty Free Shop you have to cross into the U.S.?”, she smiled shaking her head. We honestly answered “No“. There was a time when you could actually return back into Canada before this new Duty Free Shop was built. You’d buy your stuff, pay the taxes and you were good to go. But this time the Canadian Government threw us a curve ball. The Customs people were told that this newly built Duty Free Shop was only one way out – and that was to the United States. The Customs Officer smiling explained, as she filled out her little slip, that the new regulations state that our Van would have to be searched and asked that we drive into slot No. 10 where another couple of officers would take care of us. We knew we had no choice. We also knew we had nothing to hide and that this was only going to be a minor inconvenience and our penance for screwing up!!!
We pulled into slot No. 10 and two tall, young, strapping good-looking men dressed in black and wearing what looked like full police regalia, including billy clubs, approached the Van. Intimidating to say the least!!!! With goofy smiles on our faces we handed them our Drivers’ Licences and the slip of paper the other Border Guard had completed, while at the same time explaining what had happened. With equally goofy smiles on their faces, they explained they had to search the vehicle anyways, and asked us to sit on the bench while they did their job. Within twenty seconds the search was completed. The Van was empty afterall – only the usual grocery bags tucked between the two back seats and the little storage container holding various emergency travel products, blanket and golf hat. The nice Officer told us to have a nice day, returned our Licences and we were on our way home. None the worse for wear but embarrassed as hell. Naturally, Nat had to remark on our way home “that was one of the longest lunches we ever had”!!! Yeah, yeah, I’ve apologized already and I’ll owe you one. But just remember that the next time I have a brilliant idea, don’t listen to me!!!!