That's how accidents happen

Our trip to Koocanusa required multiple vehicles in a caravan. With trucks towing trailers or boats, a moving truck, two busses, and a passenger van – walkie-talkies were essential to keep communication between vehicles. They were especially helpful when we became separated by an SMC (slow moving Canadian).

It also proved to be amusing and almost regrettable during border crossings. Our two-way radios used the same frequency as the Canadian Border Patrol, a fact that we were not aware of until we reached the border. The trip north was not much of a hassle. We got to listen the their funny little accents while awaiting our turn to answer “no” to all of the questions about produce, firearms, and alcohol. There was no need at that time for all of us to communicate, so the crossing went fairly smooth.

The return trip however was not quite as easy. Entertaining, yes – but not easy.

To begin, the line to the border was longer than usual. We were all worried that we would be stuck waiting to cross for at least a couple of hours. That was troubling news for Zach, who had to pee. We told him to jump out of the van and go pee in the bushes. He declined. One of the kids from the bus behind us ran into the woods, peed, and then ran back to the bus. We suggested again that Zack should go relieve himself in the woods, and again Zack declined. He said with his luck, we’d start moving the second his pants were unzipped. Looking at the traffic ahead I knew that even if we did start moving, we wouldn’t go far. But there’s no arguing with a teenager who is having a potty emergency. What made his circumstances especially dire is the only bathroom we could stop at was on the American side of the border.

Time passed and a CBP officer stopped by our van to tell us that we could bypass the line (much of which were semis and motor homes) as soon as oncoming traffic cleared. Once around the jam of commercial and recreational vehicles, we ended up third in line. By this time, Zack was on the verge of wetting himself and was rocking back and forth so violently that the whole van was rocking. He said it was the only way he could focus on something other than his bladder.

Going back to our radio frequency, a little Canadian accented squawk described the reason that the border crossing line was so backed up – the trucks’ license plates were difficult to read. Many of the plates were so dirty or caked with mud that they could not be read at all. One CBP officer complained about her difficulty reading the license plates.

“Oh, this one is so dirty, we’ll need to clean it to get the plate number.” A few seconds of radio silence, and then she continued. “What’s with this yahoo, gettin out of his truck. He’s opening up the back door to his trailer. That’s how accidents happen!”

Up until this time, we had kept off of the radios. All listen, no talk. Yet after that comment, one of the other drivers in our party could not resist his need to be funny.

“That’s how accidents happen!” said the CBP officer.

“I was an accident,” said our driver.

“And who is that?” (sound of crickets chirping)

The CBP officer didn’t sound too happy. We were so worried that a student was going to say something stupid while crossing the border, little did we know that it would be one of the adults that almost got us in trouble.

Zack continued to rock in his passenger seat. Between Zack’s bubble about to burst and the awkward dead air on the radios, the next few minutes waiting to cross the border were quite nerve wracking.

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