Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – For me, any dealings with authority will forever be a dance of what I WANT to say and what I HAVE to say.
When I hear the question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” the first thing that pops into my head is NOT, “Why, no, officer. I sure hope I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
No, my noggin generates an instant stream of answers that includes the words “fascist,” “quota,” “Fife” and “donuts.” It just does. I can’t help it. I never say these things, but they ALWAYS jump to the front of the line and have to be beaten back in place.
I do a lot of work in Canada, so I’ve done plenty of border crossings in my highly suspicious looking ’93 Dodge van. It’s something of a cross between creepy and cheesy. I kinda love it. And so do the border guards, though for different reasons. These crossings generally go pretty smoothly, but you just never know.
Usually they take my passport, ask me a few questions – Where do you live? Where are you going? Why? For how long? – then send me on my way.
But this time …
I knew right away that this was going to be different. You can just tell. Some people in authority get a little bit more excited about being in charge than others.
“Give me the keys to your vehicle,” the guard said. First thing. Never heard that one before.
He asked me the typical questions while – no kidding – he and his partner started putting on leather gloves.
Is this your van? How long have you had it? Anybody else in it?
And then the big one …
“Any items of concern in your van?”
If anyone else asked me this – someone who was NOT packing a gun and currently gloving up to paw through my stuff – then it would be an easy answer.
“No. Of course not.” Not a concern in the world when it comes to the contents of my little home away from home.
And this is the answer I gave him, of course. Obviously, since I’m writing this from Vancouver.
“No. Of course not.”
But, as always, I had to fight off the onslaught of “real” answers to get to it.
Real answers that, oddly enough, came to me in the form of a numbered list.
ITEMS OF CONCERN IN MY VAN
1. Comic books. Rather a lot. Probably far more than you’d expect a 45-year-old man to have. Then again, maybe it’s exactly what you’d expect from a 45-year-old who drives such a van. A cause of great concern either way.
2. Laundry. Serious laundry. Serious on-the-road REALLY need to wash these items of clothing, and soon, laundry. But I haven’t yet. And may not for a while. And it’s all there, in a wad, in my van. I hope those aren’t your favorite gloves or anything.
3. That little chasm area between my front seats? That’s a definite area of concern. I’ve been shoving things there for weeks now. Organic things. I tend to eat while driving, and any remains or discards end up there. It’s essentially a compost pile. There was steam coming off of it recently. It might already be sprouting some sort of fruit or vegetable that I’m not allowed to bring into your country.
4. OK, I drink a lot of coffee while on the road, and I make it a point to not pull over unless I need fuel. Gotta make good time, yeah? So, well, there’s a Gatorade bottle under the driver’s seat that you probably shouldn’t drink from. Actually … maybe you should. Yeah, you totally should. Seriously, help yourself.
5. A general state of juvenility. This is the impression you’ll get when taking in all of the above items at once. You’ll see what I mean when you first open the side doors – whoosh – you’ll be hit with an overwhelming sense that I should have my life a bit more together than I actually do. And the funny thing is – this doesn’t concern me all that much.
Which is exactly what concerns me.
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