Andy Richardson: Crossing the border done by the book
My friend is what you might call ‘a character’.
A free-spirited book seller who lives just over the county border, he’s a force of nature who has lived a singularly inspiring life and who lives and breathes the motto ‘seize the day’.
We saw him for lunch, he told us some stories: I’d like to share at least one of them with you.
He was on a trip to New York to buy millions of books. And having toured his contacts in The Big Apple while driving an articulated lorry – at one point, stopping to make a three-point turn in the middle of Manhattan, as you do – he decided he’d like to do a little sightseeing. In his truck.
So he drove for six hours across 415.8 miles to the border where he planned to see the Falls. Except he forgot one thing. His passport. He left that in his hotel room, back in Manhattan.
‘No problem,’ he thought. ‘The American border patrol is renowned for being sympathetic and understanding when people want to cross the border without any form of documentation in a giant articulated lorry loaded with millions of books. There’s nothing remotely dodgy or suspicious about that.’
So he drove to the borderline between the USA and Canada. Remarkably, the guards on the American side didn’t stop him. The Canadians did.
“Passport please,” said a man with a large handlebar moustache and a really, really, really big gun.
My friend explained his predicament, that he’d driven his articulated truck for 415.8 miles on a whim so he could look at their goddamn purdy waterfalls. “I promise I’ll just look at the waterfalls then drive straight back across the border,” he said. And he meant every word. He truly is one of the sweetest men in the world.
The Canadians didn’t buy it. Why would a man with a million books and an 18-wheel articulated lorry want to drive across the border to look at a waterfall? Surely it would have been easier to fly to Toronto from New York, to get a train, to hire a car – in fact, to do anything other than ride with a million books all the way from Manhattan. The truck must have been full of drugs or contraband maple syrup or mouse heads, or something.
There was a Mexican stand-off.
“No. No. No.”
“I just want an ickle, wickle look at that waterfall.”
“No. No. No. No. No. Look at it from the American side.”
“But the American side is rubbish.”
“Ha, you’re right there. But we don’t care. Ner ner na ner neeerrrrr.”
The Canadian border guard pointed to a turning place near to the border, specifically designed for men who were carting books across Pennsylvania and New York.
“Turn around your truck, buddy. And remember. You’re on Canadian soil. On no account are you allowed to step out of the vehicle. You’re in transit.”
He tapped his gun, for good measure. And winked. Weirdo.
So my friend, let’s call him Andy – because that’s his name – chugged into the parking bay. And then, like a vision from above, he saw Niagra. His truck drew to a stop. He stepped out of the truck. The Mounties charged and he found himself in the slammer.
“We told you not to step out of the truck,” said the border patrol as he led him into an underground cell on some drummed-up charge of entering Canada illegally. He descended several flights and was led into an interview room. And there, directly before him, was a huge window overlooking Niagra. Brilliant.
It was more beautiful than a herd of unicorns descending from a silvery sky. It was more remarkable than a Donald Trump Tweet. It was bigger and better and louder and more mesmerising than anything he’d ever seen.
And the best part of it was that instead of having to fight it out with tourists from around the world to get a ring-side view, he had Niagra all to himself from the safety of a Canadian police cell. Boooooooooooom. And he knew that sooner or later, they’d let him go.
“This is great,” he told the Canadian police, who failed to understand the irony that they’d given him precisely what he’d been looking for when he drove those 415.8 miles.
Several years later, my friend returned to America for a road trip. On the dash on his hire car was a sign saying: ‘Don’t smoke. We’ll fine you 250 bucks if you do’. So he lit up and chain smoked for two weeks.
When he returned the car, the car hire guy asked if he’d read the sign. “Yup,” he said, nonchalantly. The guy held out his hands: “250 bucks, buddy.”
My friend looked him in the eye. “And what’s the cash price?”
Both men smiled as a $20 dollar note exchanged hands and the fine was forgotten about. Viva Americano.