A Book Smuggler, er, Travel Blogger Goes Through U.S. Customs

You know how sometimes you have really odd conversations with customs officers? Like, right-out-of-the-twilight-zone odd?

The one I had with the American customs officer at Pacific Central Station (aka the Vancouver train station) last week, while I was en route to Seattle, was one of the oddest I’ve ever had. It went like this:

Customs Officer: And what do you do for a living?

Me: I’m a book editor.

Customs Officer: Oh! That must be an interesting job.

Me [pause]: It can be.

Customs Officer: Are you bringing any books to Seattle with you?

Me: Yes.

[confused look on customs officer’s face as he turns back to my declaration form to see what goods I’m declaring (none), at which point I realize he means am I bringing books to … sell? to … distribute? to … oh, I have no idea for what purpose he might think I want to bring books into his country, so I decide I better clarify the situation for him]

Me: I have books with me to read. I’ll be bringing those same books with me back to Canada.

Customs Officer [frowning]: We ask these questions for a reason, you know.

Me: You asked me if I had any books. And I do.

[customs officer doesn’t say another word, gives me back my passport, and waves me on through]

Since I was at a writing conference, I bought one or two (erm, six) books, as one would expect. And, since I don’t want to be arrested for book smuggling, I declared them to the Canadian customs officer upon my return to Canada after the weekend was over. As one would expect.

The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle

The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle

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