I handed the customs officer my driver's license and health card.
"Canadian." He shuffled the two pieces of ID and then looked at me.
"Where're you goin Miss?"
"I'm going to a baby shower. Uh, my sister's baby shower." I said, unable to recall where the shower was, my mind a blank suddenly.
"Where's your sister live?"
"Well she lives in Harper Woods, but the shower isn't there. It's at her friend's house. I mean it's at her sister-in-law's." I sat up straight hoping this would stop my voice from shaking. "I have the directions in my purse."
"Where're you bohn Miss?" He sounded just like my brother-in-law, same Michigan accent.
"Uh, Bangladesh but I've been a Canadian citizen for over twenty years."
"Where's your proof of citizenshep ehat?"
I'd been crossing this border since I was a kid and couldn't remember the last time they'd asked for my citizenship card.
"I'm waiting for a new one in the mail. I lost mine." It sounded lame even to me.
"MmmHmm." he said and without pausing, pointed toward the building in front of me. "Okaay please pull through and paark up under that paavilion. Do nat git out of your caar. An ahficer will cahm to you."
Shit. This was the first time I'd needed to cross since it had happened.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Customs and Immigration Building. I badly needed a cigarette but was too scared to light one up. Within a few minutes a stern-faced officer was standing next to my door, signalling me with two gloved fingers to step out the car.
I pulled my lips into a tight smile. "Hi," I said.
He nodded his head. "Please stay on this side of the yellow line ma'am."
I don't know why I hadn't considered the ramifications to security at the bridge. It was June 2002, not even a full year after 9/11, the day which had altered our world. A terrible, terrible day which ignited a new kind of fear, a new kind of racism.
"What's going on?" My nervousness was slowly heating into anger. "Are you searching my car?" No warning. Nothing.
"Yes I am Ma'am. Please stay behind the yellow line." His voice was rigid and unapologetic. He then popped my trunk and with a wand like stick began sifting through my belongings. Books, a towel, an extra dog leash, some half-empty water bottles and some loose papers.
I could hear my mother's voice in my head.
"You have to know which way to go at the bottom of the bridge. The wrong direction - pick the wrong line and you could be there for hours." I most certainly had gone the wrong direction.
It was not a good day to be a lone traveller with no documented proof of belonging. It definitely was not a good day to be a brown skinned Arabic-looking woman without proof of Canadian citizenship.
After two more searches of my car this time by two different officers in army outfits, and two 15 minute interviews by these officers I was released. (I later learned these officers belonged to the National Guard).
Weary and shaken I drove to the baby shower, four hours late, and arrived just as the party was packing up.
Red Writing Hood meme - detour.