Freshly squeezed at the border

Canusa Street:  Stanstead, Quebec on the left side of the street, Beebe, Vermont on the right.

Canusa Street: Stanstead, Quebec on the left side of the street, Beebe, Vermont on the right.

Some things just aren’t worth the price, like arcade claw machines or protest votes for the NDP. Fibbing to Customs officers just to save a buck or a few moments of inconvenience is likewise too risky. Unless, of course, you’re an excellent liar, in which case knock yourself out!

I’m not a good liar, especially when there are sidearms involved, so whenever I enter the United States, I answer as honestly and as respectfully as I can, because I appreciate that there’s a thin line between fact and strip search.

This past Saturday, our family crossed the border down the hill on Route 5 in Derby Line, Vt. The Customs officer on duty was one of those rapid-fire sorts:

“Where do you live?”


“Where are you going?”


“Danville? What’s in Danville?”

“Camping. In the rain.”

“It’s not going to rain! Can you roll down the back window please? Any tobacco or firearms?”


“No one’s been arrested lately?”

“Uhhhh…” (What kind of trick question is that? I mean, define “lately”? This week? From an evolutionary perspective? When I was 24 and not responsible for my actions due to startling amounts of alcohol? And why phrase it that way? Do you answer “yes” to that question or “no”? But before I could answer anything…)

“Any fruits or vegetables?”

“I think we have a cucumber… and lettuce and…”

“Any alcohol?”

“Two bottles of wine.”

“That’s allowed. You’re all set. Enjoy your camping.” Looking in the back window: “And tell your dad not to be so grumpy.”

We were a little way down the road, joking about the “arrested” question, when Deb said, “We have a lemon.”

“What? We have a lemon?”

“It’s hidden under the lettuce. We didn’t tell you so you wouldn’t have to lie.”

“But now I’m an accessory after the fact. I’m a citrus accessory!”

Citrus, as you may know, is a one-way cross-border commodity. Even if your orange grew up in Florida, it can’t go home again. This may be because citrus fruits in transit attract bugs, although I’ve seen people in transit at the border who definitely attract more bugs than your average clementine.

As for our illegal lemon, we ended up not using it because we arrived at the campground just as it started to pour. (Take that, Officer Optimist!) Rather than assemble our supper in the wet and spend the rest of the night staring at each other in the tent, we decided to head home and make a fresh start early in the morning.

FYI: there were no citrus-related questions re-entering Canada.

Back at the house, I quietly removed the lemon from the cooler and put it back in the fridge. I refused to be party to this fruity fraud any further.

The next morning, we set off again for Vermont. As I approached Customs, I prepared myself to tell the officer proudly and honestly that we had no fruit. Deb would think I was such a convincing liar. And then I’d tell her I had removed the lemon. Oh, how we’d laugh! – although, now that I write this down, it sounds increasingly sad and lame.

“Where do you live?” asked the officer.


“Where are you going?”


“Danville? What’s in Danville?”

“Camping,” I said. “What’s wrong with Danville?”

“Nothing,” he shrugged. “Any tobacco or firearms?”


“Any fruits or vegetables?”

Hee-hee! Here we go, I thought. “Lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes…”

“Uh-oh. Tomatoes? You can’t bring in tomatoes. You want to pull over, please?”

Tomatoes too? Tangerines we knew, but tomatoes?

Parked beside the Customs house, we hauled the cooler out of the trunk and allowed the officer to paw through our food. “Those avocados: you can’t bring them in either. What else do you have there?”

“We have a lemon,” said Deb, Miss Honesty all of a sudden.

“No, we don’t,” I said.

“We don’t?” she said.

“I took it out.”


Yes, this definitely played out more hilariously in my head…

It’s too bad we didn’t have a lemon, really. With the avocado and tomatoes, the Customs guys could have made a lovely guacamole.


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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Freshly squeezed at the border

  1. El Guapo says:

    I’m glad our border patrol is protecting us from obvious scofflaws who would gleefully destroy our American way of life.

    Can I come over for some fresh guacamole?

  2. The simple, “We have a lemon” just CRACKED me up 🙂 Good stuff!

  3. When you go from Cal to AZ with at 3 year old child, the customs officers will ask your child WHO his parents are and you’ll sit there stunned that someone with a rifle is addressing your kid and then scared that your kid will start to think it’s time to do an Abbot & Costello comedy routine with said officer by belting out “Who’s on First…” –

  4. No lemons allowed in the US? But I’ve been told that Canadian citrus is among the finest citrus on earth. How dare the Customs people deprive us?????

  5. calahan says:

    Tomatoes?! How dare you, sir!

  6. Rick Cullen says:

    “Citrus accessory” … Thanks, Ross. You made me LOL in a public place (at least it wasn’t in an airport).

  7. Letizia says:

    I’m sure that lemon is sharing crazy-illegal-smuggling-you-won’t-believe-what-I-did stories with the other food in your fridge. The milk is probably rolling her eyes. The carrots may be a bit jealous.

  8. Pingback: The World's Most Ridiculous Borders and Walls

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