By Jordan W. Charness

A smart, pretty, and extremely capable young lady that I know told me an interesting story about her recent trip to New York. She’s one of those bright young professionals who has a high-level managerial position where she is in charge of several people many of whom are older than she is.

Her husband is a manager at a different company and is also one of those ultra capable types that are in such high demand these days. His only problem seems to be that he has the type of face that begs to be interrogated at the border! Their trouble began when he suggested a trip to the Big Apple to celebrate his wife’s birthday.

Although they own two cars Steve (not his real name) thought it might be fun if they rented a car that was somewhat more exotic than the minivans they drove at home. This was to be one of their rare trips without the children and he suggested to his wife that perhaps he could find a car that would make the long trip seem to fly by. Not being much of a car buff, his wife agreed without much enthusiasm.

The day they were supposed to leave for their weekend away, Steve turned up at the house with a brand-new, bright yellow, Ford Mustang convertible. Anything but subtle, it was a far cry from their minivan. Their first problem was resolved when they re-packed the luggage into one large suitcase and one carry-on bag, which was all that the sports car’s trunk could accommodate.

The second and much larger problem met them when they attempted to cross the border into the United States. Steve was driving and he presented their passports to the border crossing guard at the Quebec/New York border. He was asked a series of questions about the trip and about the flashy yellow car. Steve readily admitted that the car was rented and he was asked to produce the rental agreement.

“Who is Jean-Pierre?” The border guard asked. For a moment Steve could not think of the answer and he looked a bit perplexed.

“You know, Jean-Pierre. the person who seems to have rented this car. That’s the name on the rental contract and you don’t exactly sound like a Jean-Pierre,” the guard persisted.

“Oh that Jean-Pierre,” Steve finally remembered who it was. “I sent one of my employees to rent the car.” Steve tried to explain. The border guard was somewhat suspicious and ordered Steve to present himself, his wife, and the car for a more detailed inspection.

They were taken to a garage-like building and ordered to take their personal belongings out of the car and to come inside for questioning. The couple was separated and each one was asked simple questions like their address and postal code. Although Steve got the address right he couldn’t for the life of him remember his postal code. Things were going from bad to worse.

Fortunately, his wife was being her usual charming self and answered all the questions that were thrown at her flawlessly. She repeated several times that they were indeed going to New York to celebrate her birthday and that her husband had rented the flashy car because he said that she would enjoy it.

It was at this time that everybody noticed that there was some commotion surrounding her vehicle. The border guards had brought out sniffer dogs to check the car for drugs and explosives. The dogs seemed to be excited and barking while leaning towards one part of the car.

At about this time, Steve got really worried that perhaps who ever had rented the car before he did had left some illegal substance in the car when he returned it. As it was, the border guards did not seem to believe his story 100%. This was probably going to be too much to explain.

Steve was right to be worried. The Americans have a zero-tolerance rule for importation of even the minutest amount of drugs into their country. They will immediately seize and impound the car no matter who owns it. They will also arrest and charge the person driving the car with drug trafficking, or at very least possession. The trip to New York could’ve easily become a trip to jail. In this post 9-11 era, you don’t even want to think about what would happen to you if you attempted to smuggle explosives into the United States.

If you do rent a car and are planning to take it across the border you should carefully check all its nooks and crannies to make sure that you have no unwanted souvenirs from the previous driver.

Steve and his wife were lucky. The only reason that the dogs were barking was because they had smelled two nectarines that had rolled underneath the driver’s seat. Steve’s wife explained that they had fallen out of their lunch bag. They ate the nectarines on the spot and were allowed to continue on to a wonderful weekend in New York City.

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