#TravelRant: Dear U.S. Customs in Niagara, WTH???

Paula Froelich
Editor at Large
Yahoo Travel

The iconic Niagara Falls.

Last  month, Yahoo Travel editor Jo Piazza and I went for a lovely day trip to Niagara Falls. We flew up on a private plane (sounds posh, right? Don’t worry — it’s affordable), took a bus over to the Canadian side and went wild. We took a ride on the Hornblower Cruise — the Canadian version of the Maid of the Mist — had lunch and went shopping for awesomely tacky souvenirs.

Hanging on the Hornblower.

At 2 p.m. we caught the tour bus to go back to the United States. It had been an awesome day. A great experience, and we were ready to go home. To our country.

Escape to the border.

Sadly, our country wasn’t quite ready for us. As we were in a bus with 10 others, we had to go through the bus lane. We queued up, the last in a line of three other busses. It took over an hour for a customs official to come out and see us (meanwhile, hundreds of cars had zipped through and we counted over 50 people walking over the bridge). At around 3:30 a customs official came out of the building, entered our bus, looked around and said, “Yeah. We’ll call for you soon. Don’t move.” Note: there were no other busses waiting at this time. We were the only ones.

Inside the customs office. Note: No line. 

A little after 4 p.m. we were finally allowed into the customs building (no one bothered to check the bus to see if it had explosives). At 4:15 I got grilled by the customs official where he asked me things like, ”Where do you live?” “Why were you in Canada?” “What do you?” “What is your exact address?” “Are you married?” It was twice the time to get through customs in Canada then it was in JFK in March when I went to Afghanistan. Which is decidedly more suspect.

Jo said, “That was way more comprehensive than any online dating profile I’ve ever filled out.” 

Around 4:45 we were finally on our way.

Jo being grilled by the customs official. In his defense, she did semi-resemble a terrorist that day. 

“What was that all about?” I asked the bus driver.

“Who the heck knows?” he answered. “They do work slowdowns every now and then but that was crazy.”

Yes, it was crazy. But I have a few theories:

1. Maybe, being patriotic citizens, the customs officials were simply trying to annoy people so much that next time, we will all stay on the American side. Despite the fact that the view is way better from the Canadian side.

2. Perhaps there was a Giardia outbreak and they had to all use the bathroom at the same time for an extended period of time.

3. Maybe one of the elderly Korean women who had walked over the bridge had something odd in her shoulder bag… that was probably just some leftover Kim Chi from lunch which the customs guys didn’t recognize and, due to the smell, assumed it was explosive. Which, to be fair, kim chi can be, but that’s a gastro-intestinal issue, not a national security one. 

Either way, U.S. Customs in Niagara, WTF? When your brothers in arms at JFK can run circles around you, you know you got an issue. It made me not want to go back to Niagara anytime soon. Which is a shame as there is a Space Needle there — and  you know I love a space needle

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