I have been living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia for more than ten years now but I have been able to avoid going to the USA for shopping on holidays — until this past Remembrance Day. This was my first and last-ever time that I’ll go over the border to shop on a statutory holiday.
I had taken the Friday and Monday off so I would have five days in a row off from work. I figured it would be a good time to spend some time with the family and maybe even take a quick road trip somewhere. But as soon as my mother found out I had the same day off as her (Remembrance Day) she immediately made plans for me to drive her to Bellingham in Washington State to visit my cousin.
Being a good son, I argued until I was blue in the face that I did not want to spend my day stuck in traffic and waiting in lineups at department stores to save a few dollars. You see, I knew the whole purpose of the trip was not for my mother to visit my cousin, but to go to the Costco in Bellingham for groceries and to Bellis Fair to buy some shoes.
After a few hours of expressing over and over again that I did not want go, I relented like most good kids do. But my condition was that we would not leave on Thursday morning, but Wednesday night. I did not want to wait hours in a lineup first thing in the morning so I figured it would be better to leave and spend the night at my cousin’s house. I called my nephew Randy, who is 18, and asked if he wanted to come. Before I hung up the phone he was already at my door (he lives a good 25 minute walk away).
While Randy was racing to my house, his father asked if my wife Baljeet and our three-month-old daughter Ravneet would be going too, just to make sure that there would be enough room in the car for Ravneet. I was under the impression Ravneet would need a passport, but he told me that all I would need was a birth certificate for her. Still a little skeptical, I decided to take the chance. What was the worse that could happen? If she wasn’t able to cross we would just have to turn around and go home. (I was praying for this scenario!)
Anyway, the five of us drove out and reached the border at 9pm. There was not a soul in front of us. The birth certificate was just fine for Ravneet to go through (to quote Homer Simpson “D’oh!”) and we were on our way to Bellingham.
This would be the easiest part of the trip because the next morning all hell would break loose. I honestly have never seen so many people pushing through and arguing with each other. Whether it was at Ross, Bellis Fair or Costco, there was madness all around. According to Randy, what I was experiencing was nothing – if I wanted to see a real gong-show (Prince George slang term for ridiculous event) I should come back on Blackout Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving. No thanks!
So back to the shopping. The parking lots were filled with BC license plates and the malls had scatterings of people wearing Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions paraphernalia. Randy, who visits Bellingham often, told me that during the weekdays, Bellis Fair was ghost town but on the weekends and holidays, the owners of the shops made their money.
Later in the afternoon we bumped into the receptionist from our doctor’s office at Target, and she told me she had crossed the border at 1pm, after waiting three and a half hours! All I could think of was “how could anyone wait that long in a car just to go shopping?”
Costco was our last stop. Think of Christmas Eve shopping x five. There were long lineups into the isles, and all my mom wanted was to pick up was milk, cheese and eggs! So Baljeet, Ravneet and I waited in line while my mom and Randy shopped. What a way to spend an afternoon, eh?
Once we got out of there, I bought the only thing for me — gasoline, of course — after waiting 15 minutes at the Costco Gas Station. At about 4pm we began our journey back home. I did not want to spend another minute in that madness. The lineup at the border was light and we got through in a few minutes (the second easiest part of the trip).
When the border guard asked me if I had anything to declare, I was so tempted to say “Yeah, never go shopping in the USA on a holiday.” But I decided against it.