Sunday, February 6, 2011

the prep - the trip - the border - PART II

The barometer for our sense of control over this odyssey was Luca's mattress.  Before we left, we gave Luca's crib away but felt a desperate attachment to the mattress.  Luca had been successfully sleeping through the night and for really long naps in the afternoon on this mattress. Besides, what better symbol of home is there than a bed? ...a good night's sleep; a place to lay your head to rest.  So, we thought:  it'll fit - we know he likes it -  why mess with a good thing?  Now it was the final item to be packed  - perched (initially...and then eventually tightly strapped and bagged within an inch of its life) to the top of our roof. 

I humbly amend Lao Tzu's famous quote, " become learned each day add something.  To become enlightened each day, drop something."  by adding, " en-lighten your car enough to reach the minimum speed  on the interstate, leave the toaster oven (and any number of other household items easily purchased at Target at your destination) at home!    To make sense of the task of packing the car that had become an advanced, life-size game of Jenga,  Gavin enlisted the help of our friends: the spatially skilled and vertically endowed Gilad and Jason.  I left the capable crew of three scratching their heads in the midst of what looked like a cargo hold's worth of personal belongings strewn about the car on the floor of the parking garage.  Three hours later, the team emerged thirsty and bleary eyed but triumphant.  I went down with Gavin to look at the car and saw a house of cards: simultaneously precarious and beautiful in it's engineering.  I was so proud of them and impressed.  I wanted to immortalize this success...this show of efficiency.  I wanted to gaze at it, photograph it and explore it.  I moved to open the back door to get a better view of everything stuffed (artfully) in there.  Gavin lurched at me, " I wouldn't do that if I were you!"

We left Monday morning, our collective mood uncertain and fragile.  After finally surmounting delays related to forgotten sippy cups, missed exits and a final fix of Commons' coffee (decidedly out of the way but so worth it!) we were on the highway.  After a few minutes of coasting we looked at each other no longer able to ignore the high decibel flapping sound coming from outside.  Gavin pulled over and got out to investigate.  He returned a few moments later, "'s the mattress", he said.  "I am going to have to pull the straps out from the bottom of the trunk, double bag it and tighten it to the roof".  Ah - so just as for the mattress, we too would have to search inside ourselves, the deepest part of our "trunks" to find whatever tool we had that would tighten our resolve; that would make us  unflappable for what lay ahead.

After just a few hours of driving we reached the border - the apex of this road trip.  This was the point after which, we thought, everything would be actually and metaphorically - coasting.  The following dynamic is universal: it applies to everyone crossing a border and to every officer presiding over every border of every country.  WE are supposed to be nervous;  THEY are supposed to feel omnipotent.  This is the way it is supposed to be and should not be tampered with in any way.  WE simply have to remain nervous until we survive this uncomfortable (at best) interaction.  THEY have no choice but to behave omnipotently because backpeddaling and being magnanimous might get them fired and - worse - mess with the natural order.  So, we sail secondary inspection where we get through a series of challenges.  First, the officer does not want to allow myself, Luca or our stuff entry.  Then after agreeing that we would be entered as Gavin's dependents (ironically allowing us more time than if were were there as carefree tourists) he peruses the paperwork and we all discover that Gavin was issued the wrong visa by the consulate!  So, the now helpful officer waives the visa, agrees to let everybody through and is poised to stamp the final stamp in all of our passports.....then......he realizes...that we haven't paid some fee that was meant to have been paid after the visa was issued.  So, of course we agree to pay the fee immediately especially as that is the only thing keeping those double doors under the EXIT door closed to us.  But....the fee can only be paid online... and.... there is no internet access in the processing room.... and.... they are not allowed to help us in any way including jumping online for us.  So, we are given special permission to use the otherwise restricted cell phone to call someone who has internet access to go to the site and pay the fee for us.....get a receipt number to plug get a fax to the officer who is standing 30 inches from us.

Three hours later we are "landed" in our new home. We have been through the wars and we have the wounds - and the spoils - to show it.  We decided to make that travel day short given the stress we had been through and the commensurate pallor of Gavin's face.  We check into our hotel still too far north to see any dramatic changes in the weather.  That night  - in the darkness that falls too early this time of year - from the window of our hotel, as the snow begins to fall gently,  Gavin's shadowy form can be glimpsed atop our car.  He is  repositioning the mattress and securing it tightening it and tightening it with a focus that is visibly unshakeable .  He had found the straps - that mattress wasn't going anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Okay - well you're a fabulous writer - and I laughed out loud twice. I hope you're there now and things got easier not harder.

    xo - Sheena