The North American Customs


Translated by Andrew Fentem

It was Saturday 6th September and no sooner had I left the plane after it touched down onto the tarmac of Montreal airport than I was met by two customs officers standing in the exit corridor waiting to check my passport. On reaching customs itself, I was asked a question by a customs officer, which was followed by a second and then a third. By the time of the fourth question, I had started to get irritated and asked if this was an interrogation. �It�s the law� the officer replied and led me to the immigration centre. Once inside, another customs officer started questioning me.
�I have family in Montreal and they�re expecting me,� I answered.
�What�s their address?�
�Well� do I have to give it you, is that the law too?�
�Whether it�s the law or not isn�t the point - if I ask you a question you have to answer me,� I was told.
Feeling somewhat annoyed, I gave him the address of my aunt, which I had jotted down at my mother�s house the previous evening just in case�
�Very well. Please take a seat, Mr Fransolet and we�ll go and check this out.�

Some minutes later, the same customs officer told me everything was OK and I could leave. However, my luggage still needed to be checked. I was then met by a fourth customs officer, who opened my hand luggage and the outer pockets on my rucksack. He was friendlier than the previous ones and told me I was quite within my rights to take some chocolate for my cousins but added jokingly he would keep some himself for his services. Finally, a few moments later, somewhat relieved and my chocolate supplies intact, I met up with my cousins at the arrivals hall and soon after we were joined by my aunt. She told me the immigration service had actually given her a call. They had even asked her if she was willing to provide for my upkeep while I was there.

The next time I took the plane, for a flight from Montreal to New York, I only had the pleasure of one customs officer at Montreal. He merely asked me what I was going to do in the States and how long I would be staying. Having learned my lesson from the customs officers in Canada, I told myself he was only doing his job, and calmly but firmly replied I was just going to the US for my holidays till Thursday of that week. He stapled part of a form which I had had to fill in beforehand to my passport, on which the address of my hotel was written and off I headed for my plane. Once on American soil, I was a free man again and I didn�t have to show my passport or my luggage once.