I have to write this. Like - the angst in the pit of my stomach won't go away until I do. See, I feel like I need to clarify a recent FB status I made.
Today was a day full of ickiness for me. Right from the get-go. I should've known ... I should've just stayed home. But, I didn't. I headed south to get some much-needed groceries. I did my usual rounds ... Trader Joes, Costco, the dairy ...
The Mailbox. That's where I pick up packages that would charge me too much to ship to Canada. I don't do it often, but I have definite used it. It's convenient and I feel super savvy when I pick up my treasures there.
A few weeks ago, I was on a RHP packaging rampage ... meeting with new clients with my old branding seemed wrong. I ordered a lot of different products online - new business cards, flash drive cases, stickers etc - from both Canada and the US. If you asked me which products came from where, I couldn't tell you. Some from here, some from there.
After my route today, I stopped in at The Mailbox to pick up my stuff. I was a little uneasy to see that there were three packages. "Eek," I thought. "I hope I don't get asked about that at the border." I quickly opened one of the three up, curious ... and then checked my watch and decided to open the rest at home. I was running late.
I put them in the back, along with my groceries, and headed north.
There was no one in line, and I drove right up. I was asked the total of goods - and that's when my face must've screamed I was hiding something. "Did he ask about groceries? Or was he asking about more than that?" I couldn't think.
I mean, they only ask for groceries - no?
See - if there's one thing about me, if you know me well, I'm a MISERABLE, TERRIBLE liar. What a great thing for my parents as I was growing up ... I always, always got caught whenever I tried. It was always such a miserable experience - with harsh punishments - so ... it worked. I'm completely unable to be dishonest.
Well. I could try - but you'll know. And I'll feel horrible.
I guestamated - and told the officer my GROCERY total. He then started firing questions - what street did I live on, what did I do for a living, did I have this, that or the other. I started to sweat - I must've looked like I was bringing 100kg of narcotics back.
See ... at that point - only a few seconds into the conversation - I now had the opportunity to say, "Oh - wait - there were some packages too ...". But I was so frazzled ... and I truthfully felt like if I brought it up, that it would just make them suspicious of me. I evaluated the situation in the fraction of a second.
And man. Did I pay for it.
He wrote some stuff down in silence, while my heart beat a million miles a second. He told me to park, gather up my receipts and see the lady inside. Oh, and they were going to check my truck.
I got inside and I approached the desk. Without being questioned, I immediately fumbled some useless reason for why I never mentioned the packages. In mind I was thinking, "I had bought them weeks ago; I hadn't known the value; he didn't actually ASK about them ...".
Aren't I a grown up? Shouldn't I know better? I felt like I was four all over again ...
Most kids are useless at lying. It's obvious - they create some insane story ... that quickly falls apart. Adults are much better at it - and have ample reasons to validate WHY they tell half-truths. To not hurt someone, to get themselves out of a little trouble. Or worse.
Once inside, she knew by the pale face and bulging vein in my neck - that I was stressed. Oh, I tried to be calm ... I sincerley hadn't meant to be in this predicament - I mean, he very well could've just told me to go on through and then I would've thought, "no problem." I hadn't really done anything wrong, right?
The guard took my keys and searched ... for a half hour or so. It felt like eternity. I was calculating costs, trying to figure out how I would be punished, KICKING myself for not correcting myself from the start ... for leaving info out that I quickly realized was important.
When she returned, she had me follow her into a separate room. I actually almost threw up ... and she was stern. Like, scary-stern. I've never had a run-in with a cop before, or a principal or whatever. I've always had a healthy respect for authority. I'm feisty but I've never been a trouble-maker. I just cowered and stayed silent.
She told me about the $2000 fine that is implemented for "commercial use" products - the paper products - being undeclared.
"What?" I thought. "My little business is hardly commercial - I hadn't even thought about that! Oh Lord, oh Lord ..."
She asked me their total, as there were no receipts ... and I honestly, sincerley had no clue. I wasn't even sure WHAT was in the boxes - as I had only opened one. I said that if she would allow me to open them, I could tell her. And that's when she really got rough.
"You don't even understand the magnitude of what you've done here," she said. "You NEVER bring over packages that are unopened ... what if they had given you the wrong one. What if there were drugs or something else in there?"
I stood, literally, with my eyes bulging out of my head. Drugs?
"You would be arrested on the spot. Done. And it's worse heading into the US. You can get up to 25 years in jail."
Jail? Is she talking to me? This is insane. I didn't HAVE drugs. Paper cd cases, lady, 100 paper cd cases.
"Do you have a commercial number," (or something like that) she asked.
I didn't even know what that was.
At that point - she put her head down, and she softened. And I was so, so grateful.
See ... what had started out as a "maybe I'll just leave that part out" had grown SO massive in the process of an hour - that I was completely overwhelmed. I was lost - and I had NO idea of the ramifications that my "leaving info out" had.
It was like the Rumour Weed from Vegetales. Growing before my eyes.
She told me that she had the authority to fine me the $2000 and confiscate my truck. I felt the floor give under me.
"But," she said.
Grace. She showed me grace. I hadn't told all the details - I deserved a punishment, because rules are rules. But instead, she took the time to let me know that she saw my character. That I honestly hadn't realized the magnitude of it all. She walked me over to the pamphlets and went through the "dos and don'ts" of border crossing. She answered every one of my questions, she showed kindness ... and I was so grateful.
Honestly - it reminded me of very good parenting - as silly as that sounds. Because, I believe, she saw that the ordeal was punishment enough (and paying the GST and PST on a few small items). And then she chose to use the opportunity to TEACH me. Often, we do this as parents.
I wasn't mad at her - and I think that's why I've written this. How could I be? How can we be mad at others for calling us out on our wrong-doings? So many comments on my FB were, "oh poor YOU. What an ORDEAL." And although I am completely and utterly touched by those who were showing me kinds, I felt that wasn't a fair representation of the story. She wasn't in the wrong - neither was the dude that pulled me over. They had rules, I broke them ... and they taught me a VALUABLE lesson. By not writing this, I feel like I would be letting people interpret it differently than what happened - and THAT would be another half truth. So I'm nipping that in the bud LOL.
I will NEVER go through that again.
This is not to say that there have been injustices at the border, or in real life - for that matter. It happens all the time. Once I had to throw away 6 eggs from my carton of 18 to make an even dozen. Those are other stories, and not what happened to me today.
In these few hours since, I have gone over the experience a thousand times. I have tried to evaluate my heart in it - when did the "lie" start? Had I planned on it - did it grow earlier than when I had pulled up? I'm thinking that it may have ... that I may have just thought "fingers crossed" - and then it all backfired.
How many times do we lie by omission? What does that say about our heart, about our character? When someone says, "are you ok." And we're not ... but, being honest is too hard. Or maybe too much of a bother to lay out there. Or when someone asks us something directly, "have you done this," and we're too ashamed to admit it. Or maybe we get away with something - over and over. "Be sure your sins will find you out," has been going through my head. Even though some would think that this whole thing has been blown-out-of-porportion, I think that may just be another way that we push it down - that we let our behaviour get away on us ... that we excuse ourselves.
What did I learn - other than the obvious? Well - practically speaking - next time I will have my receipts in order. I will circle the items that are GST + PST applicable (I now have that sheet in the truck). I will tally up the receipts for an accurate amount.
Morally speaking - I will ensure that I will not leave out details.
I will not forget her grace. I'm even tempted to send her a thank you card - with a link to this. If only I knew who she was.
As a side note, you may say, "oh - I bring such-and-such back and they always let me though." I took the time to ask her about specific things ... you can ONLY bring food items - excluding candy / pop / chips. No toilet paper or household cleaning items. No random items from Costco. It's strictly food - and even then, there are rules. How many, how much. If you want to break the rules and get away with it, I will not judge you. In my opinion, now, the laws are there - and breaking the law is breaking the law. Even if we think it's stupid.
So, I now have the list in my truck. I will always check.
And ... I will never be a liar-by-ommission again.