At Customs

At Customs in Vancouver, doing Canadian customs, which is pretty easy usually, since we’re citzens, and I step up to the wicket:

Customs Dude: (Looks at my passport) Welcome home. How are you?

Me: Very well thanks, you?

CD: Great. Where you coming from?

Me: My friends house in Scappoose. It’s near Portland.

CD: How do you know your friend?

Me: We met at a knittting conference.

At this point, the gentleman did an incredibly Canadian thing which is that he was totally and completely freaked out while simultaneously unable to demonstrate it due to a need to be unflappable in public.

CD: Knitting???? Okay…. What do you have to declare?

Me: Yarn.

CD: Yarn?

Me: Yarn.

CD: O-kay.

I go off, and he is very much happy to see me go, since there’s only so much a man can take in the odd department. Right then, Rachel H comes up right behind me, doing her very best impression of Princess Chipperpants.

CD: Hello, Welcome home. Where have you been?

Rachel: I was in Scappoose with her! (With this Rachel gestures at me and beams at him.)

CD: So… you’re a knitter too?

Rachel: You BET!

CD: So… what are you declaring? Some knitting or yarn thing?

Rachel: Oh yes. (Wide smile) Yarn!

CD: Any alcohol or tobacco?

Rachel (looking as pure as the driven snow) Nope!

CD: Off you go.

Then he turned and actually watched us walk.

One more flight to go.

157 thoughts on “At Customs

  1. I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have with me at Customs than RachelH.

  2. a yarny smile and hopefully your full allotment of beer for the day! lol. you shoulda video-kinnearred it!
    oh man, i can just see it!

  3. It’s funny that you flapped the unflappable Canadian Customs guy.
    Hope your next flight goes well, and your house is still intact when you arrive home!

  4. That’s it?
    You just say, “Yarn” and its declared?
    Just like that? No forms? No weights and measures? No VAT? You just say “Yarn” and waltz over the line to The Other Side?

  5. I love how strange the customs people are sometimes. Coming home from an 8 week trip to Europe after college, the customs guy in our line was giving the lady in front of me serious grief. When I approached, he saw how long I had been gone and which countries I had been in, and asked me, “where did you enjoy visiting the most?” “Germany” I tell him. “Why?” he says. “Great beer to drink everyday.” He looks at me and finally says, “I spent a couple years stationed there in the army and I completely agree. Welcome home, please move ahead.” He didn’t even ask me what I had to declare. Best customs experience I ever had!

  6. Do you ever run into customs or security people who know you? Who say, “Oh yeah, I recognize you now! I’ve got a couple of your books.” (Or, “My wife has a couple of your books,” or “My mother…” or whoever.) Surely there are customs/security folks out there who knit. Or who know knitters.

  7. Haha! So why do you think that folks have such a hard time wrapping their brain around knitting? Anyhow, glad you’re back in your home country and almost in your actual home 🙂

  8. Another fine example of how much nicer customs officers are in other countries. Not that I have a huge amount of experience, just with Canada, the Netherlands and the US. It seems to me that the US makes an effort to hire snarky personnel to man its borders. I have no problem with them doing their job, but they sure could be much more professional and courteous about it!

  9. Thank you for pointing that out as a national trait. I always thought it was just my husband (and, well, his family). He’s lost most of his other Canadian mannerisms, but that one seems to stick.
    (it makes it difficult for me to gauge his level of freak-outedness, since I’m a typically overdramatic and self-absorbed US citizen) (fortunately, he is Canadian, and so is pretty understanding of the flaws of others, freaked out or not)

  10. I live in Washington and last summer some friends and I took a day trip to Nelson BC. Where we bought all the potato chip flavors that you lucky Canadians have that us sorry Americns don’t. So at the border when the border lady asked us if we bought anything we said “potato chips”. She looked in the back of the car and all she said was, “Wow, that’s a lot of chips.” Then she looked at us kind of funny and waved us through. I can’t imagine all the things they see and hear at their jobs.

  11. FWIW, I travel so darned much that I actually *recognize* the customs agents. They are quite chipper at 8:00a in the morning and pretty much send me along without trouble. Nice!

  12. Coming back from England some years ago (pre-9/11) I had two teacups, knitting needles, historic reproduction thimbles from the Tower gift shop, and yarn. And two tinned pies. And a 9-year-old with English play money. At midnight. At Kennedy in NY. I think it was the combination of the yarn and the pies that flummoxed the Customs lady, but after a fairly extensive inquiry into my admittedly odd collection of items, she did let us go. Probably couldn’t have gotten the needles and pies in post 9/11, could I?
    I’d like to join the Princess Chipperpants fan club, too.

  13. Diane at 9:23, if you want to meet nice US customs people, enter through Minneapolis. Friendliest bunch I ever met. (Though I’ve never met really bad customs officers anywhere, not even in JFK. Maybe I just haven’t traveled enough).

  14. Sorry to see you go…glad the meeting of the minds was a success…I would have asked to grope the yarn…lol…

  15. How funny! I had the opposite reaction at Canadian customs after I told them I was going up to visit a friend.
    Him: “How do you know your friend”
    Me: “We’re members of the same weaving guild”
    He was completely unphased, nodded knowingly, and waved me into Canada.
    Which I thought was pretty darn cool.

  16. I love the fact he didn’t think to question you on HOW MUCH yarn you had with you!!
    For the record used cloth diapers also do the trick… My parents took me to Russia and eastern Europe for a month when I was under a year old and used some cloth diapers. On our way back via train a Russian border guard came onto the train and demanded to see everybody’s paperwork and the contents of their suitcases. My parents tried to dissuade him from opening a particular box, but he did… and promptly turned green and left the train without looking at any more passports or bags! I guess he didn’t have kids of his own… 😉
    But that only works if you’re travelling with a baby – I’ll have to remember the yarn bit!

  17. Welcome home!
    I wonder if the customs guy’s wife was a knitter/yarn collector. Maybe that’s why he knew not to question you!

  18. At least he did not confiscate your yarn. I was bringing back a bottle of wine, declared it and when I got home my wine was gone! A $50 bottle of wine! Most expensive wine I ever bought. My daughter wanted it. And so I got it. Never made it home. A Lapel pin disappeared too but I discribed it to them and that was returned by mail. It “fell” off of a piece of clothing. I had forgtten to take it off, when I packed. No one had seen the wine though!

  19. I’m with Barbara K at 10:03 — you didn’t ask him to hold the sock??? tst, tsk

  20. Princess Chipperpants!
    I LOVE IT!
    I also love that the customs agent said, “Welcome Home” Typically I get a nod something that could also pass for a grunt.
    Further proof that I would like to be Canadian…

  21. Now it’s not ALWAYS that way at the Philly airport station (city of brotherly love, humm, I think not!)I have found if you stand there knitting on a sock or a hat or anything while waiting to go through the security line AND pull a Princess Chipperpants (and GOOD morning to you too! Lovely day isn’t it!) they kind of swallow their tongue and wave you through. It helps to use the Montana accent – close to Canada, not yet, but they can’t tell the different with the rising infection on the end of each sentence – and that really pushes you through.

  22. You know, I only have temporary immigration status in Canada, and they are always really polite when I return. I once drove through the border at Sarnia with my double bass and dog in the car, and they didn’t even check my documents.
    I’ve wondered if it would be too hard to be unflappable when presented with that and that’s why they didn’t stop me.

  23. I had a similar experience when coming home to Canada from New York City where I had spent over my week-long-stay limit, mostly on yarn – I had bought enough Koigu yarn for that hexagon skirt and some sock yarn and some hand dyed lace yarn. I declared that I had gone over my limit and was sent to the customs agent to sort out the duty owed. But after I had explained to the lady what I had overspent my limit on and showed her my receipts and my stash, she eventually looked at me and said, “You only live once. Go ahead,” and let me enter Canada duty free!
    I don’t think she knew what to think of someone who would spend that much money on yarn and feel compelled to admit it. It would have been difficult to appreciate that a backpack full of yarn could be worth as much as I claimed, unless you are a knitter. Of course I could have argued that the majority of the yarn was actually Canadian-made and so should be exempt from duty – not sure I would actually have had a leg to stand on there, but I might have tried to point it out. All in all, it was a great way to end my yarn shopping tour of New York City.

  24. I was waiting for him to ask what you were doing outside of Canada and for your answer to be “Putting the final touches on a Sock Summit!” Enjoy Joe and the girls while you are home and go Megan and Pato!

  25. wow…I’ll have to point this out to my husband as a reason to buy yarn in foreign countries. But y’all didn’t have any alcohol with you?

  26. The day will come that declaring yarn is so common the CD will only be confused by those NOT declaring yarn.
    We will rule.

  27. I love that they say “welcome home”. I know they say it to everyone, but it always makes me feel awesome.

  28. You girls are funny! On our side it is all business, no funny business, as I’m sure you know. Once coming back from Canada a US customs dude requested my ashtray and then actually snuck his nose into it and sniffed. Snorted actually. All that was in there was orange peels. Lucky guy. That could have been so gross. That man was taking his job a little too seriously if you ask me. Supervisor must have been around or something. Anyhow, welcome home!

  29. Be careful if you ever cross at the Windsor/Detroit tunnel.
    When I entered the US to visit a friend, I was asked multiple times why I had “sticks and string” with me (i had just finished a dishcloth, and hadn’t started on an other) and I said it was knitting. The guards then went on to question why I had a box of tampons, then back to the string, then asked about the half eaten chocolate bar (PURCHASED IN THE US!) and why I had it, then back to the tampons and one more question about the sticks.
    Man, those guys annoy me. Especially because the guy on the bus behind me smelled really, really strongly of, let’s call it British Columbian Incense, and they let him slide right through.

  30. We’re driving up to BC in a couple of weeks, stopping at Yellowstone National Park for a couple of days first, and I’m wondering if it’s wrong that I’m starting a list of ways to try to “flap” the “unflappable”?
    And yes, I know driving up there from Kansas, with 3 kids in the car sounds nuts, but trust me, for my sanity and state of mind, it’s easier than flying.

  31. I once flew from London, ON through Detroit, enroute to a Music Library Association conference in the US. The “Customs Dude” asked where I was from…? Canada. “What is the purpose of your visit?” I explained that I’m a Music Librarian, and was going to the MLA conference. “Do you listen to the CBC?” Yes! [This was before the latest round of “improvements”…] “I listen to it EVERY DAY – what’s your favourite program?” He could’ve chatted ALL day about the CBC…it was certainly my most interesting border experience!

  32. I just passed through customs in Vancouver earlier this week. I connected through Vancouver on my way to visit a dear friend (that I met through knitting) in Victoria.
    I just have to tell you what a lovely experience I had there. On my way into YVR, my flight was delayed coming in from Chicago. I was very worried that I was going to miss my connecting flight to Victoria. Yes, I know that flights run all the darn time, but I didn’t want to have to deal with the hassle of switching flights, and I was excited to get there and see my friends! Anyways, as I’m frantically running through the airport (I must’ve looked like a crazy person), on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS, airport personnel very kindly asked when my flight was leaving, and then let me skip ahead to the front of the line so that I could make my flight. I made it, with time to spare.
    I love Canada. 🙂

  33. Wow, I didn’t even get questions at the Vancouver airport (well, not from Customs. Immigration asked all sorts of things, like what I did for work and where I was staying in Canada.) The customs lady just asked me to hand over my form and off I went.

  34. Wow, I would never even think of declaring yarn. I supposed it’s an “agricultural product” or something, huh? Here in the UK customs is pretty slack and if you’re coming in from the EU customs and immigration is pretty much nonexistant – in fact, you can get your passport scanned by a machine with face recognition software now and that’s it!
    In Italy you hold your passport up to the window and they wave you on.

  35. My favorite customs story is crossing from Canada (where I was living at the time) into the U.S. (where I am from). The U.S. customs agent was questioning me on why I’d spent so much time in Nova Scotia, and I explained that I was married to a Canadian.
    He looked at me and said, “What, Americans aren’t good enough for you?”
    My response? “If there are any, I surely haven’t met them yet.”
    I then had to spend 15 minutes explaining, no, I didn’t need to bring souvenirs back from a place I’d been living for a year and a half before he finally let me through (with barely enough time to make my connection). Needless to say, the Canadian customs agents were always delightful, pleasant and welcoming. Make of that what you will.

  36. I once visited Canada with a friend to meet in person an internet friend who had terminal cancer and a short time left. Telling the Canadian customs guy that we were visiting a friend we had met on an internet scrapbooking forum was….interesting. We had to convince him that we had known her a long time, that we had conversed with her for years, sharing photos of our families, and that yes, she really was dying and wasn’t scamming us.
    We did the trip from Dallas to Winnipeg and back again in four days, so after two days of driving to get to the border, we were EXTREMELY loopy to begin with and had a hard time keeping a straight face. Luckily, he let us through.

  37. You should just be thankful you didn’t have a bunch of new spindles to declare! In the US unless you’re at SOAR, a guild meeting, or a fiber festival, when you say you’re a spinner most people think that you mean you ride a stationary bike in a spinning class at a gym. To help them understand the difference I just whip out my trusty spindle and demonstrate saying “Nope, I’m this kind of spinner. My type of spinning was first!” Have a safe trip home. It’s fun to travel but it’s always so nice to sleep in your own bed!

  38. Canadian customs (Houlton) asked me why I was visiting and I said to attend a spinning workshop. Unflappable, yup. Even when you’re bringing a whole spinning wheel. Returning to the US Customs Dude (Calais) asks what the purpose of my visit had been. I tell him spinning workshop. He says, “You mean, like YARN?” Incredulity and puzzlement. I was waved right through.

  39. We spent our honeymoon at Baker Creek (between Banff and Lake Louise. Of course we bought the requisite tourist swag to bring home to the children-4 little pocket knives that said Banff on them.(they were old enough not to stab each other) I packed it all up in the bag it came in. (see where this is going?). After customs (who were really confused by the difference between my birth cert, marriage license and different last names) we got to security who promptly noticed we had knives in our carry on. Oops. We totally forgot about them and almost argued that certainly we wouldn’t do such a thing when the light bulb went off in our heads. Being Canadian, however, they were more than nice about it and sent us to the postal kiosk so we could remove said weapons and mail them off. My husband, who worked for the airlines at that time, about died of mortification. I had no problem, however, with all the metal sharp pointy knitting needles in my back pack.

  40. That was my experience, in reverse. (This was before I knit.) My husband and I had spent a wonderful weekend in Toronto. Driving back home, at the border we declared SOCKS! (Keith had bought kilt socks to wear with his kilt.)

  41. I have to say that in my limited travel experience, Canadian customs and airport personnel in general are nicer than American ones. Back when you could still cross the border with a birth certificate rather than a passport, one of the American guys stared intently at my birth certificate for several minutes, trying to figure out if it was real or if I had faked it. I just stood there calmly, figuring anything I could say would sound like I was nervous and trying to pull something off. He eventually showed me how the first I in Indiana, my birthplace, wasn’t raised in the embossed seal and suggested I get a passport, and let me go. After that, I got a passport.
    Actually most of the Canadians I’ve met are always polite, reasonable, very nice people. I think one of the problems with my Canadian ex-boyfriend was that he didn’t act like a Canadian.
    Nicole at 12:42am’s experience is bizarre. What did he think any woman would do with a box of tampons? Duh.

  42. LMAO!!!! Too funny! About 20 years ago my parents decided to take a family trip down to Florida and we drove. Four of us in the car, and we drove through Customs at Detroit. Now, my dad is Irish Canadian (son of an Irish warbride and born in Ireland), my mom is a redhead of Irish and English background, and I guess my brother and I just REALLY look Irish. I guess the whole family does, because after the US border guy asked each of us our names and what country we were from, after recieving the answers (each name and Canada), he laughed and said he was ready to swear we would answer the (Irish sounding name) family from Dublin Ireland.

  43. Gotta love Canadian customs.
    I can’t wait to see the guy’s reaction at the Quebec border when I come home from Rhinebeck later this year and only declare yarn.

  44. Coming home from Meg Swansen’s knitting camp…..Canadian customs guy asks me where I’ve been — Pittsville Wisconsin at knitting camp.
    Knitting Camp?
    I reply – yah, you know like hockey camp and everyone goes and learns about hockey? well this is knitting camp..
    He says “so you go and knit and crocket that type of thing”
    I say NOOOOOO, not the C word….
    he just laughs and lets me thru……

  45. I went to my sisters wedding in the US. On the return, I declared that I had nothing.
    The guy STARED. ” Well, what were you there for? ”
    I replied ” My sister’s wedding. I made it there with only 2 hours to spare and left the next day. ”
    He asked ” No bridesmaid gift? ”
    I said ” I wasn’t a bridesmaid. ”
    He stared harder, thought for a second, and waved me through. As I passed, he said he hadn’t been a groomsman for his brother’s wedding either.

  46. I’ve only ever crossed into Canada via the two crossings on/near I-5/BC-99, but I have to say, as an American, it’s always FAR more pleasant going into Canada than returning home. For one thing, I’ve yet to see an American customs person ever welcome me back home! And secondly, the time I went camping up at Cheakamus, the Canadians suggested I also visit Whistler as the village was quite fun even if you weren’t a skier…Whereas the Americans just thought it was absolutely insane that I’d travel that far north just to camp. Phoo on them.

  47. I was crossing into Canada on a bike in 1991, and the border dude asked “How many people?” I told him there were 12 in my group, a few were ahead of me, the rest behind. “How many in your vehicle, ma’am?” Umm, seriously?

  48. He watched you walk away because he is interested in knitting and trying to look cool. Also, he thinks knitters are hot.
    I think it would be fun for an entire plane load of us to cross the boarder and do a little yarn shopping. This is solely for the purpose of having an entire line of us declaring we’re meeting knitting friends and declaring yarn purchases. I’m thinking the look on their face would be worth the price of the flight (and the gigantic yarn purchase I’d be sure to make)

  49. I’m an American living in Canada for my PhD. My PhD is in Medieval Studies, at U of T.
    Almost every border agent I’ve ever spoken to thinks that he wants to be a grad student in medieval studies and wants to talk about how interesting it is. I’m about ready to propose a Pearson outreach program.

  50. Hah! Reminds me of that bit from “Alice’s Restaurant”.
    “And if THREE people did it… In harmony… They might think it was a movement!”

  51. A few years ago when I was driving into Canada in order to liberate some Koigu from abusive conditions (long story), the boarder guard asked us what we were doing. We explained that we were knitters, and we were going to go and buy some yarn. He asked to see what we were knitting, so we pulled out assorted sweater and sock WIPs in the car. Then he asked “But won’t they shrink when you wash them?” And we wondered … he’s Canadian. It gets pretty cold in Canada … isn’t it probable that he has at least ONE wool item? (On the way back we were also asked what we bought. “Oh, some yarn.” (Some yarn. About $400 each.) I started rambling about hand dyed yarns, and he sent us on our way.

  52. Just goes to show that ‘civilians’ can’t imagine the possibility that yarn could be acquired in quantities necessitating declaration~ Good!

  53. Heh- my most interesting customs experience was a business trip- as I passed through customs in Toronto on my way to a business meeting with a briefcase full of automotive water pump bearings. They’re metal cylinders with a rotating shaft through the middle, quite heavy, and about the size of hand grenades.
    The guy of course wanted to see them (after they showed up on the X-ray), and what were they, and who was I and who did I work for…I gave him my best cheery smile, showed him my business card (describing me as a senior engineer for a manufacturing company) and started talking about the design of the product, the problems we were trying to solve, why it was absolutely *fascinating*, with an excursion into some of the finer points of rubber chemistry. Okay, even I knew this was kind of tedious, but I was quite capable of continuing to explain *all day* if I’d had to. The customs guy lasted through about fifteen minutes before he decided that nobody could talk that much about water pump bearings if they weren’t actually doing what they said they were and waved me through….

  54. I was once in Nova Scotia, and managed to buy… quite a bit… of yarn. As I approached to US border, I started getting nervous about possible monetary limits of bringing purchases back over the border (and not really wanting to pay any penalty – I’d already spent my budget, don’t ya see?)
    When asked if I had anything to declare, I put on my Very Best Princess Chipperpants smile, and said Very Enthusiastically, “YES! I bought yarn and it’s really lovely and I think I’m going to make socks with some of it – would you like to see it?”
    There was a small silence as the border guard (a middle aged man) looked dumbfounded.
    Then he looked stern, and said, “NO!” and I got instructions to move along. I did remember to look a bit surprised and miffed that someone would not want to look, fondle and exclaim over the nice yarn I got….why, we could have talked about possible projects for the yarn.

  55. Several years ago, not long after 9/11, I asked a guard in security about the current view on taking knitting needles on a plane (at the time the last flight I had taken, they had been banned).
    ME: So, when I fly next month, will I be able to take my knitting on the plane with me?
    GUARD: Ma’am, if you can single-handedly take a plane down with a knitting needle, more power to ya.
    It would seem no one quite knows what to do with us, our sticks, and our pretty string.

  56. I could picture this exchange as clearly as if I were there. Next trip home I’m going to declare yarn just because!

  57. I have my own Canada customs story. I live in Ottawa and go to an eye doctor an hour south of here in Ogdensberg, N.Y. (my husband used to work for the World Bank in Washington, DC and we kept our U.S. based health insurance). On these visits, I usually drive a little farther south to Canton, N.Y., home of Linsie Woolsie, a fabulous yarn store with some of my favourite American yarns, like Brown Sheep, which no one in Ottawa carries. Last time, I picked up enough wool to make my 20-year-old son a nice sweater before he goes back to U of T in the fall. I drove up to the booth at the crossing and declared that I had knitting yarn. Understand, this is a crossing between two lunch pail towns, where most of the traffic is going to or from the Price Chopper on the U.S side where chicken sells for a fraction of the Ontario prices. The border agent asked me the value of my yarn. I innocently replied, “$80”,thinking that I’d really found a bargain. The agent first looked shocked, then he sighed, rolled his eyes and waved me through. Maybe he’s married to a knitter!

  58. Hey, that sounds like nice guys! Here in Germany you would never hear a customs official greeting you with a “welcome home!”
    What yarn did you bring?

  59. I love Canadian customs – I’m a figure skating fan and usually get to Canada a couple of times a year – there are lots of events between here (Detroit) and Toronto. We joke about figure skating being a magic word because every time we say that is why we are going, they just wave us through

  60. Welcome home, Harlot! Have you ever considered a NEXUS card? Unless you want to keep freaking out the border guards, that is!
    I travel frequently to the US (being married to a redneck in North Carolina), and having a NEXUS card has made US customs an absolute breeze; for anyone who doesn’t know, a NEXUS card is a pre-approved frequent travel card for easier access through customs/immigration.
    Anyhoo, I never get to use it coming back into Canada (I never get out of North Carolina early enough, and the NEXUS lane is closed by the time I get there); however, I have had the same border/customs agents several times coming back into Canada (Buffalo/Niagara Falls crossing). The best was coming back this past May; I drive a black station wagon with the words “Husky Hauler” in white on the windshield and my licence plate has words to that effect (which most people can figure out; if not, the sticker on the windshield clues them in). The agent looks at my wagon, and is trying to puzzle my licence plate out; he finally asks me what it stands for, and I have to actually tell him. Then I say it’s for the lump of fur (my Husky) that’s passed out in the back seat, which he could see as I had rolled down the windows (I have a rather dark tint). He says, “Oh, you have a Husky?” Inwardly sighing, I reply in the affimative…so he COMES OUT of his booth to see Tug! He asked me more questions about the dog than my trip; and, in a truly Canadian fashion, didn’t outwardly freak out when I told him that I have had Tug’s fur spun into yarn and knitted myself a winter bonnet with it! There’s a line of cars forming behind me, and he doesn’t care; finally he asks if I have any alcohol or tobacco, I reply no, and he says, “Have a nice night.”
    ROFLMAO at “Bossygirl at 12:04pm”‘s experience!

  61. While stationed in Germany in 1972(US Army base), my husband and I traved to Luxemburg for the weekend. Try explaining Tampax to several overly curious (male)border guards…when you don’t speak German, speak only limited French and they don’t speak English. Talk about embarassing! They finally let us through, but you would have thought I was smuggling miniture missles or something for the questioning we got.

  62. My husband said if it was THAT funny…so I read the post out loud to him. And then some of the comments too, when I laughed too much over them, too. Priceless!

  63. Give Customs Dude his due, he’s a quick study. And really, in that job, he might not have looked any more closely at you if you had declared a yak, except they probably quarantine those.

  64. –GUARD: Ma’am, if you can single-handedly take a plane down with a knitting needle, more power to ya.– Priceless. Straight out of a movie.
    The issue wouldn’t be the goods themselves, would it? (yarn, or computers, or spinning wheels, or a car or a boat etc…) It would be the sum of duty you would pay on goods bought out of Canada, esp. considering the amount of yarn that we imagine that you could bring back.

  65. I know now that the next time I want to bring in booze that it will be OK as long it’s wrapped in yarn and I talk about knitting with the customs officers.

  66. Great story!! What would he have said if you told him you were coming back from planning a Sock Summit?? 🙂

  67. Well, we arrived back in Sydney, after an eight week visit to Ernst’s family in Hamburg. Not exactly travelling light, two children (6 & 8), who were being very good, but getting close to the stage were melt-down was a distinct possibility.
    Two BIG suitcases, one smaller. A school back-pack for each child, a set of bike panniers for me. What nobody told the Customs bloke was that there was a dismantled (small) bicycle in the suitcases. And balanced on top of the pile, a pair of Kober canoe paddles, which didn’t fit in anything.
    This WAS way back in 1975, a distant and more peaceful realm, it was about 5.30 am, and the Customs bloke just looked at the pile, looked at the kids, looked at the PADDLES, and told us to get the Hell out of there.
    Which we did, very gratefully.

  68. That’s so awesome. The only kewl border crossing experience I ever had was when I was a teenager in Europe. My father and stepmother took me and my 2 younger sisters to germany (my stepmom’s german) and we visited a few other countries in europe as well. We crossed most borders easily b/c no one was manning them and I was getting very depressed that I didn’t have stamps in my passport. At one border there was actually ONE guy there and he was sitting in a booth reading not paying attention. My father pulled the car over, took my passport to the guy, and got him to stamp it for me. I remember this so well b/c it’s really the only nice thing my father ever did for me.
    Oh, and in answer to the question from earlier “what would a woman do with a box of tampons” there is another answer: Tampon angels. Best christmas craft activity ever. You soak them in water and hang them to dry (preferably in a dorm communal bathroom…)then paint them. You use pipe cleaners for the hands/wings and you can make the head by sticking a round wooden bead on a pipe cleaner through the tampon and make a halo on top. They look awesome when you’re done.

  69. Once again, you visit YVR, but not Vancouver. When are you going to actually come to visit? We have lots of lovely yarn and many nice knitters. You could even crash my Friday Night Knitting Club if you wanted.

  70. Ha! That’s a great story, and I read it to my husband (since he asked why I giggled). That sounds like coming “home” into the U.S. Except the American border guards are rude, angry and don’t care to welcome you back to your own country. They asked several Crankypants questions when we came back from Toronto this time last year, and didn’t even ask if we had anything to declare. Despite the fact that I had visited Lettuce Knit on the day the STR came in and had about $150 worth of yarn to declare. Welcome home!

  71. How awesome! I love the Canadian customs guys most of the time. I can only hope my return home from the Sock Summit will be as amusing. I’d laugh my arse off the entire way home.

  72. Cute story. I’ve never had customs officials from any country be rude to me. And although I don’t recall being welcomed home when crossing the Blaine border crossing (we lived in Bellingham and drove to Vancouver often for dinner, etc.) my family was welcomed back from our trip to Australia in 2000. I’ve not traveled abroad since then. Maybe people are grumpier following 9-11. Anyway, enjoy your respite with your family Stephanie.

  73. I’m glad to hear your on you’re way home. Gotta love the customs guy! Hearing your experience really made me chuckle. It wasn’t a great day for me, but things are looking up.

  74. Hmm. When we left Vancouver to come home to the states, the customs agent saw that I was declaring $150CDN in yarn. She didn’t bat an eye.
    Which probably indicates that we Americans are taking away all your yarn, and our customs agents not only know but support the offensive maneuver. D’you think?

  75. A guy my Dad knew from University way back in the day used to ride across the border on a bicycle with a backpack full of sand. The sand, as you can imagine, caught the attention of the US Customs officers, but there was never anything in it. Just sand.
    Turned out he was stealing bikes, riding them across the border to sell them, and the sand was his red herring. I don’t know that he ever got busted.
    So I wonder if a bag full of sand would distract them from my yarn?
    I must say, I’m now quite curious about coming back through customs in Vancouver with all the other Canadian knitters travelling back from Portland all at the same time.
    Heheheheheheheheh.

  76. Imagine the customs folks when they receive the Canadian knitters coming home from Sock Summit. Snork!
    I hope you’ll be able to get some time off at home. You deserve it.

  77. See that would never happen in the UK but only because the conversational repertoire doesn’t go much beyond “Thank you” *stamp* “Thank you” *stamp* (not that they actually stamp your passport nowadays).

  78. I want a graphic novel, “Princess Chipperpants and the Clipboard of Power.”

  79. please tell me that one day you’ll do one of these sock summits in the Uk so we Brits can also play….and I can just see our custom’s response to Yarn…full body search…this lady’s crazy!! who would bring yarn to Britain??

  80. I keep having non-North American airport security be intensely interested in my crochet hook. Not the knitting needles, not the shoebox-sized sleep apnea machine or its cables–the crochet hook.
    Clearly, this is because I do not have any tampons.

  81. U.S. Customs once hassled my (decidedly unflappable) mother at a Manitoba-N.D. crossing because she had brought a handful of kindling along with her camping gear. After she argued with them, they produced a formally-printed list of “ITEMS PROHIBITED FROM ENTRY INTO THE UNTIED STATES.”
    My mom: “But I’m not entering the Untied States. I believe I’m entering the UNITED States. Does your manager know that the name of your country is misspelled on this piece of federal documentation?”
    Customs dude: “Move along, ma’am.”
    I still have the piece of paper, which has made for a lot of fun moments at dinner parties.

  82. Years ago I walked up to Canadian customs at the airport, accordion case in one hand, wearing a top hat, at Toronto. “Morris dancer?” he asked? Yup, I replied – how did you know?
    Got a really funny look, because it was this big English morris dancing weekend (our Labor Day) and I guess he’d seen a lot of us already!
    We’re going up again this year, but driving. Hopefully it will be as easy.

  83. I wasn’t crossing a border, just the street. After movie night and dinner,the hostess tried to give me a flashlight to walk home in the dark. I picked up my lighted needles and made it home just fine. Does this mean I knit too much?

  84. I thought knitting in Canada is huge…wonder why he’d think it’s odd. Maybe it’s bigger than it is in the U.S., but still not really huge?

  85. I, too, have only good Canuck-Customs stories and one VERY unfortunately Yank-Customs story. But there was one good one: we were travelling into Canada for fun (because it IS fun!). In those days I was an habitual Arctophile (teddy bear aficionado) and always travelled with my two Favorites. So we had our usual camping gear, &c, and on the back seat: 2 sleeping bags, upon which sat two teddy bears, so that they could see out while seat-belted. The customs lady (Canadian) walked around the car, peered into the back seat…walked around again, peered again, came back the other way and peered at the bears — then said to my husband: “Uhm….are you the only…uhmmm….PEOPLE in the car?” I think she thought we had children bound and gagged somewhere in the car……(To his credit, my husband, he laughed and said “The teddies are my wife’s.”) That was true…but the toy rabbit between them was HIS. Rabbits don’t need seatbelts.

  86. Yeah – I get the same reaction from the UPS guy … I once got a very heavy box and when he asked what it was I had in it, I amswered “yarn” he looked just flabbergasted.

  87. The only Customs rudeness I’ve ever experienced was driving into BC from Washington state and getting major attitude from a tres supercilious French-Canadian official.

  88. I got the same treatment on my way back into the US from Canada – the guard raised an eyebrow and sighed. At least he didn’t take it as a lie – trying to get into Canada they asked me 15 questions just about the wedding I was going to.
    That being said – Toronto was awesome and if anyone hasn’t been to Lettuce Knit yet they should go. Super friendly and a wonderful shop!

  89. Did you see Lucy the sniffer dog? Is she still there? I wonder if she can smell yarn. I miss YVR!
    I always declare yarn. On the customs form there is a category for plants, insects, meat, vegetables, animals – their parts, and by-products. I figure wool counts.

  90. I’ve crossed the border a fair bit but best was when I lived in Buffalo, NY. A friend bought me circular needles as a b-day present in Niagara Falls across the border…but they were duplicates of sizes I had! I went to exchange them. It was -5 Fahrenheit. The Canadians waved me into Canada, all was well. On the way home, I declared “knitting needles” and “homemade pasta” to the U.S. border guard. “What? you can’t just buy your needles in the US?” She snarled at me. I explained the exchange but she was downright unpleasant.
    At my knitting group a few days later, I mentioned that border crossing. I was the youngest knitter there by about 35 years. The other knitters were outraged. “What’s her name!?” they asked. “How rude! I bet I know her mother!” Luckily, I didn’t know her name…she would have gotten into serious trouble! Maybe she was just cold?
    Ahh. The power of knitters…

  91. Well, at least they didn’t make you really go through customs. I hate the Vancouver airport.
    Also, I love yarn for its ability to be crammed into corners of your luggage without adding weight.
    happy knitting

  92. That customs person likely has no idea that we buy yarn that has travelled half way across the world to us and then we take it around the world when we travelon the planes and trains and boats crossing and recrossing borders

  93. I’ve never had any trouble going thru Canadian customs, either. But coming back has been a long, strange, trip. Canada doesn’t care that I’m bringing in children not my own, or indeed my own but with no proof of that. The US, however, had serious issues about me both bringing back children who weren’t mine, and children who WERE mine without proof of that.
    My husband has had issues both ways (long haired guy driving a sports car… a clean sports car… very suspicious… until they found his work id and realized he is an engineer. That’s ok, then, engineers are supposed to be strange.)

  94. Last time I went through Customs, I told the guy I’d been at a knitting retreat for men. He did the double-take and asked what we’d done there, and then a bunch of questions about how long it would take him to knit a sweater. I launched into a short explanation about gauge, amounts of yarn required based on the weight of the yarn and the relationship to gauge , the number of hours per day of knitting time, one’s general skill level, etc. He didn’t glaze over for 1 second. I still haven’t decided whether he was genuinely interested in knitting himself a sweater, or whether it was a test to see if I actually knew anything about knitting.

  95. Next time I’m buying yarn in Canada. I once took the Nexus line at the Vancouver border in error. It was late, I’d gotten up early, my glasses were dirty. I had to fill out a form and was threatened with a fine. I think it was the screaming two year old, the sleepy four year old and the grouchy twelve year old that convinced the US Border partol it was an honest mistake. I’ll never do that again! I’m so glad your border crossing was so pleasant. Welcome home!

  96. A geomorphologist friend came home from Greenland with ice cores and soil samples. The US customs official asked him if he had been on any farms.
    “Nope, just camping by a glacier for 5 weeks.”
    “What are those?”
    “Soil Samples.”
    “You wouldn’t happen to have any dirt in that soil, would you?”
    “No, sir.”
    “You may go.”

  97. Here’s my Canadian Customs story: The summer I turned ten, my family drove from Columbus, Ohio to do the whole Niagara Falls thing. We crossed the border and had dinner in a revolving restaurant. My seven-year-old brother and I bought Peanuts cartoon books somewhere. Dad bought us souvenir T-shirts (now long lost to time), and we picked up another one for the neighbor boy, Joe, who was just my age.
    Customs official: “Did you buy anything in Canada?”
    Dad: “Three T-shirts and two funny books.”

  98. Welcome home!
    I was watching the CBC news last night and saw that there were forest fires and many evacuations in BC. Isn’t that the area where you were visiting your friends at the beginning of the month? Are they ok? Hope so!

  99. Ah customs. Something about the process makes me feel guilty even though I rarely have done anything wrong. I have crossed the US/Canadian border many times, but have 2 memorable stories…
    1. I am from Minneapolis but went to university in Saskatchewan for a few years. I took my parrot to live with me for a while, but then decided he would be happier back at my parents’ where they could spend more time with him. I had all of the documentation from crossing into Canada, but on the way back home at the SK/ND border, the US customs guy FREAKED out.
    Customs guy: “Why do you live in Canada but are a US citizen?”
    Me: “Going to University for pre vet med.”
    Customs guy: “You have a PISS-TI-CINE (it should have been pronounced SIT-I-CINE) bird! You, as a vet student, should know better than this!”
    He then took me and my brother out of the car, during a blizzard, questioned us separately, to see if our stories matched. (We figured they throught travelling with parrot = drug smuggling)
    This was after he asked me if Rico was an “attack parrot” (what the bejeeberz is that?!?!). I told him I wouldn’t put my fingers in the cage because he’d probably bite, but explained he wouldn’t fly up and attack him…
    He then sent us 300 miles east to a border crossing with a vet on staff to examine my bird. The poor vet, who worked with cows and pigs, didn’t have a clue. Just said hello to the bird, who cocked his head and said hello right back, then signed some papers and sent us through.
    2. Flying back from TO to Minneapolis post 9-11. When we were standing in line when my husband informs me that he has no documentation of his citizenship because we sent his birth cert in while waiting for our passports and it wasn’t back yet. After I went through, my husband pulled out his driver’s license, some household bills, and declared he was an Eagle Scout. I’m freaking out, the Customs Official is pretty mad, but then he tells my husband to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Hubby finds a flag, turns towards it with hand over heart, and recites with true feeling. The Customs Official, with a look of disgust, shake his head, tells hubby to get his documents together, and lets him through.
    As I said – ah, customs.

  100. Coming back from Europe years ago with my 1.5 year old son, the bored custom officer in NY asked me the standard questions. When I admitted I had stayed on a farm with hogs, he informed me I would have to take my shoes off and shower. I was flabbergasted, but he said he wasn’t kidding. When I questioned him further, he said I could take my son with me and they would provide the towels. Then I heard the custom officer on the next line snort. I guess this was before things got so serious. I had stuck to my guns in Europe with a train conductor, hotel desk person and bank teller when I felt I was being taken advantage of, but let my guard down back on US soil. I can giggle about it now.

  101. That is very funny.
    I am really not fond of travel. When my hubby and I went to Toronto a few years ago, Customs let me into Canada just fine, but they almost didn’t let me back into the United States. Not exactly a fun thing at nearly 2 a.m. Yuck.

  102. I once rook a class trip to Niagara Falls, and my mother was a chaperone. We saw the American side, then crossed into Canada. On the way back, it was late, it was dark and we were frankly wired with exhaustion and sugary soda.
    The Canadian customs agent asked my mother if we had anything other than souvenirs to declare. She said no. He looked at the busload of rowdy teens, none of whom were actually sitting down but instead were switching seats constantly, then leaned forward and asked my mother something like this, “And you’re bringing back everyone, correct?” My mother looked at him like he was crazy, and he said, “I have five children, and we lose one frequently, so are you sure you’ve counted correctly?”

  103. And duh, that comment should have read US customs agent. I have Canada and a burning desire to visit Lettuce Knit on the brain!

  104. I don’t travel much at all and have never traveled out of the country, so I am finding these comments as entertaining as the post! Living vicariously, I am.

  105. I don’t have much recent experience with Canadian customs, but I must say the U.S. Customs people were pretty nice recently when we came back from New Zealand through San Francisco. My husband and carefullly coordinated what we were declaring on the forms, but I had bought many small items (including yarn) so had to use three forms (there aren’t many lines on those forms). The agent laughed and said that I had used the most forms he had ever seen. Well, I wanted to be sure the Whittaker’s bittersweet chocolate peanut slab bars and the wine made it into the U.S.

  106. Coming back from Nova Scotia/NB, we stopped at the border and handed the man our passports. He asked what we had to declare. We said rocks and yarn. He was quiet a moment while he looked very carefully at our passports, and we worried a bit about the additional rocks we’d scavenged from the beaches…or was it that he has something against knitting? Then he handed back our passports and said “Try to remember to sign your passports before you use them next time.” Thank you, sir!

  107. First time we went to the Caribbean (to St. John, in 2002) I had a 3″ pair of scissors with me in my carryon. And bamboo circs which my everlovin’ husband was afraid the customs people would confiscate and begged me not to make a scene if they did. I said, Trust me, I’ll be more dangerous if they take them away. Not one agent in Philadelphia nor Atlanta said a word, and three flight attendants came by to admire the sweater I was knitting for my daughter.
    Returning was a different story. My scissors were taken from my bag and tossed into a bin in St. Thomas, over my protests that I’d brought them INTO St. Thomas and not been stopped. Made no difference. Flew into Atlanta and got stopped at customs because EH did not have any documentation that he was a US citizen beyond his driver’s license. No voter reg, no passport (back then, you didn’t need one to travel to the Caribbean), nothing. I finally convinced them that he was my husband, not an international terrorist, and they let us through.

  108. In Europe, you have to beg for a passport stamp. After 7 weeks, I got ONE measly stamp. Returning to the US from Paris, you should have seen the cluster of customs inspectors gather around us two older ladies when we said we each had about $100 worth of chocolate. It was gifts for families and friends so we did not open and share but the customs folks were very nice and inquisitive. We gave them business cards from the chocolatier!

  109. I always knit when we are crossing immigration from the US (NY-Quebec border), to look above suspicion.

  110. “Flapping” the customs agents is particularly amusing when traveling to Canada for a romantic tryst.

  111. Just so you know, googling “Princess Chipperpants” brings up this blog entry!

  112. Great story.
    In Paris at CDG they don’t really let you through security with knitting needles. I once got through on the strength of the fair isle mittens I was knitting. The woman at security really liked them, let me go through “just this once” and told me not to say anything to the supervisor.

  113. Freaking Hilarious!
    Rachel should have pretended not to know you…that would have really freaked the dude out!

  114. In re: the Jimmy Carter tweet — you betcha. I’m with the person who said it’s too bad we couldn’t just elect him ex-president straight away. Best one we’ve ever had. Bet the other ones hate him — before him they could just golf and build libraries to themselves and give commencement speeches. Now they have to cure river blindness and sexism.

  115. I loved Joanne’s post, about her knitting friends wanting to report the rude customs agent to her mother, not a supervisor.

  116. Don’t have a customs story, but do have a Postal story. Postal carriers are easily amused when calculating postage for a package addressed to the “Sock Museum”.
    Postal carrier: “There is a Sock Museum? So, a museum for famous socks?”
    Me: Well, it will have socks made by well known knitters so I will say Yes!”

  117. Not much different from the last time I came back from Montreal, although the asker of the “how do you know your friend?” question was the American customs guys, and he similarly did that I’m not going to gawk ma’am, but that’s an odd answer thing. I think it must be the Canadian influence, living so close to border. Or maybe it’s just the knitting.
    My postal lady Pat is a knitter, so she loved that there’s a sock museum. Just sayin’.
    xo

  118. My fave story about customs: Came back from Toronto through Sarnia/Port Huron via (the back of a) motorcycle. Detoured to Niagara back when street was 2 lane, not highway. Downpour in Niagara.
    All tourists left at the same time, including us. Soaked to the bone… with leather gloves I could wring out. So cold I thought I’d never warm up. Of course, a traffic jam stop-and-go with fumes to breathe, for something like an hour.
    Cycle driver wouldn’t stop till Sarnia. Stopped at 1:30am at 24-hour restaurant. Put one plastic garbage sack on one leg, another on the other, covered both with (then-hip) knit stirrup pants. Finally ate “dinner” which we’d planned to eat at 10am in Lansing (2 hours away).
    Got to customs about 2am, back of budget motorcycle, two barely-20, freezing-cold kids. Customs agent notices the plastic bags sticking out of my ankles above the shoe.
    Customs: You don’t have anything to claim, do you?
    Us: No, sir.
    Customs: Get along home quickly, you two.
    We must have looked particularly pathetic. Don’t want to live that again, but it’s a good story.

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