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Alarmingly Complicated, Eh?

I'm really losing the ability to sit down and write. Hmm, take two more bites of frozen custard or type something about my trip to Canada? Custard.

At the airport after I confidently handed over my nine-year-old passport and while I chatted non-chalantly with my co-workers and fellow travelers, the airline rep rifled through the passport pages and tapped tentatively on her keyboard, eyes darting from the screen to my passport and back. "There's a different name on the passport than the ticket," she said in an accusatory tone. Before the whole sentence was even out of her mouth, and in front of all of my curious co-workers, the blood drained out of my face but I tried to look nonplussed while I grabbed for my driver's license. "Oh, my passport has my maiden name on it - I didn't even think about that. Ha, ha! Well, here's my driver's license!"

"That won't work. You'll have to have a marriage license, the passport, AND a driver's license. They won't let you through customs without that."

Forty minutes later, after multiple cell phone conversations and lots of "we're calm and cool even though we should be panicking" moments, John drove back through the airport drop off lane and slowed down only to hold our marriage license out the window. I grabbed it and yelled goodbye to the kids, and then spent 20 minutes attempting awkwardly to dash through the airport with what felt like 80 pounds of laptop and work files over my right shoulder, a purse unnaturally on my left and therefore sliding off every three steps, and a coat (because it's supposed to be cold in Canada, even though it really wasn't while I was there) resting over my forearm and flying out cape-like from behind me. I sat down and panted for five minutes before the flight started boarding, at which point I proudly walked up to the gate attendant with boarding pass, passport, driver's license, and marriage license, and said, "the name is different on my passport, but I've got a marriage license!" The gate attendant looked at me, said, "okay," tore my boarding pass, and waved me through. I was confused, and if I'd had more energy, would have been downright incensed that he didn't even look at the document I'd almost missed the plane for. "Well," said a co-worker, "I guarantee you they'll look at it when you get to customs in Canada." We changed planes in Denver and I waved all of my paperwork at the gate attendant again, and this time I was practically mocked. When we arrived in Canada, I was nervous, anxiously awaiting the moment of truth. The customs official said, "what are you doing in Canada?" and I said, "I'm here on business," and she said, "when was the last time you were here?" and I said, "I've never been here," and she said, "are you bringing anything that will stay in Canada?" and I said, "No." and she said, "have a good trip." I blinked a few times and gingerly pushed my marriage license toward her, hoping it would catch her eye, but she just waved me on, like I was confused.

I dejectedly approached my anxiously waiting co-workers. "They didn't even ask to see it?!" I was jaded now, not to mention dehydrated and probably slightly delirious (I don't travel much, can you tell?): "I'm pinning the damned marriage license to my shirt. SOMEONE IS GOING TO LOOK AT THIS THING."

(Nobody ever did. EVEN ON THE WAY BACK TO THE U.S. The border official at U.S. customs in the Canadian airport did not say ONE. SINGLE. WORD. to me. I gave him my passport and ticket, he looked sort of bored and irritated, picked up the passport and grunted, then threw it back at me. I'm guessing he looked at my passport picture, but I can't be sure. So I'm here to tell you that if you want to sneak into the U.S. from Canada (yeah, right), it's pretty easy.)

You crazy Canadians! You're so darned friendly and helpful and smiley, people can't help but LIKE you! Even you, hotel representative who had to deliver the news to me that my new room was still not available 10 hours after our morning conversation regarding the problem with the ethernet connection in my first room, even YOU were remarkably full of smiles, tense ones though they were, as you explained in a mildly high tone that there was nothing you could do because the computer said you were waiting on housekeeping (pronounced endearingly to us midwestern accent-less drones, hOsekeeping) -- so really all you could do was check with ho(u)sekeeping -- even for YOU I couldn't muster any of the real disappointment and derision I usually find so easily for people I meet and create unrealistic standards for (I'm a peach!). And you, office receptionist, coming over every couple of hours -- not so often that it felt annoying or overbearing, but often enough that we realized you hadn't forgotten the coke-chugging, overweight, under-nourished U.S. citizens using up all of your "big paper" (I love that you call it that! It's so simple and to the point - why do we have to name the exact measurements, right? 11x14. 81/2 x 11. Yeah, yeah, we're all so smart and sophisticated. It's just 'big paper' - we all know what we're talking about. COMMUNITY! AH!) -- stopping by just to see if we needed anything. If WE needed anything! We were using up all of your supplies and kicking your employees out of their spots because they had the prime network spots and we were on a short timeline, and you wanted to make sure we weren't going without. Can you please come teach this alien mentality to us? We don't really know what that is down here. I'm sure you figured that out, among other things, when several of you walked us through your fabulous downtown tunnel system -- oops, excuse me, Plus 15 system -- to an Indian food buffet and at least half of my co-workers gawked at your plates in confusion and masked disgust as you sat down in your simultaneously unassuming and worldly way to eat the traditional Indian dishes. SIGH. My people are uncultured slobs, what can I say? But you guys with your maple leaf and your cheery acceptance of frigid cold and your genuine appreciation for other human beings, even selfish and hateful ones for whatever minimal value they bring to society - you rock, eh?
Coming off the plane, delirious with fatigue and feeling appreciation for the U.S. only because my bed resides here, I headed towards the luggage claim area. I was talking to a co-worker and still struggling with coat, purse, and cruise-ship-anchor-weighted laptop when I saw Quinn's tiny face about 50 feet in front of me. The next few seconds went by in slow motion. First, I noticed his ecstatic expression and felt a pang of... something... when I realized I hadn't known if the kids had noticed much difference during my absence until that moment. Next, I noticed how his hair was blowing back from his forehead, indicating the speed at which he was heading for me. Finally, I realized too late that between me and Quinn stood 1.) an armed airport official and 2.) a very loud alarm system and 3.) a sign reminding all airport visitors that the terrorist threat alert had just been raised to orange. The armed airport guard saw the darting four-year-old, looked at John, looked at me, and stood up with his arm outstretched, yelling, "go back, go back, you can't cross that lllliiiiiiiiiiinnnnnne!" Quinn kept running, but his face flushed and his smile disappeared, and he looked at the guard and back to me, then kept coming for me, which tripped the Very Loud Alarm Next To the Sign Re: Terrorist Threat Alert.
I ran up to Quinn and grabbed him, his face still flushed with fear and confusion. "I'm so glad to see you, buddy," I whispered in his ear. "I just wanted to hug you. I couldn't see your nose and eyes and mouth and I wanted to get close to you. But next time you go to Canada, I won't make the alarm go off." I hugged him again as Bryce walked up. Expecting him to melt my heart, too, I reached for him, and he buried his face in my shoulder. "Mom," he said, "Do you have our presents?"
Yep. Welcome home.