Cable Stories Part 1: Learn to Pick Your Battles or How an Egg McMuffin almost caused an international incident

Border crossing photo from

Four years after 9/11, fifteen busloads of United States students from Champlain, New York, headed toward the border for a weekend ski trip. For weeks the Canadian authorities had been putting out bulletins advising travelers to expect delays at border crossings because of increased security. That morning, the delay at Lacolle crossing, Canada’s largest port of entry, was already two hours.

The buses got to the border around 3 a.m. – Only three of the 15 buses had been searched four hours later. By 9 a.m. only two more had been completed.

I’m guessing it was sometime during the search of the sixth bus that the tour organizer threw a fit. He contacted the U.S. consulate concerned that students on the buses that were still waiting hadn’t been let off the bus and were hungry. The consulate contacted Canadian customs.

The supervisor at customs told the consulate that it was taking so long because several students had fake id’s and “indications there might be drugs.” The customs supervisor said they were free to return to New York if they didn’t want wait.

Sounds like poor planning on the part of the trip organizer. Still, the Consul General Bernadette M. Allen thought it was important enough to send a snarky letter to port director, John Cheney about the matter. Some of the highlights:

“I am writing to bring to your attention a particularly serious delay that…that affected a significant number of U.S. high school students.” 

“Reportedly, the students were not allowed off the buses and had been unable to get breakfast during the long wait. Admittedly, the tour organizer had an option to return to Champlain, NY at any time for breakfast. He noted, however, that the prospect of having to requeue, adding a further delay to the trip, may have doomed the group’s ski weekend.”

“The more than six hours it took to clear the buses seems excessive, unless authorities actually were finding drugs among these particular passengers.” [What about fake Id’s?]

“As such delays adversely affect cross-border travel and commerce, I also am seeking your intervention to ensure reasonable inspections that will facilitate a smooth flow of people and goods…”

 What Cheney probably read:

Dear Canada,We are Americans. Snark. Snark. Snark. We don’t like buses when we are hungry and we want to get off the bus. Snark. Snark. Snark. Egg McMuffin. Snark. Snark. Such delays adversely affect cross-border travel and commerce and you don’t want that. Snark. Snark. Snark. Make the lines move faster because we wanna go ski. Snark. Snark. Snark.
Snark Snark,
Your downstairs neighbor, America the Great.

In Canada’s defense, they’d had issues in the past with busses of students bringing over drugs or paraphernalia. In America’s defense, I’m pretty sure around this time Egg McMuffins were buy one get one free so I can see why you wouldn’t want to be stuck on a bus at customs. McDonald’s breakfast time always seems to end so abruptly.

Read the cable here.

See the webcam at the Lacolle crossing to make sure your ski trip isn’t going to be delayed here.


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