hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trapped by Language

Yesterday, I made my way across the border to buy some Canadian flour (so much better than U.S. for breadmaking: harder wheat, no barley).  I cross the border regularly of course for one reason or another and I know how it is supposed to work and, for the most part, how it works.  Yesterday, however, it didn't work quite right.

Here's how it works: I approach the border, I open my car window, I hold my Nexus card out to the reader, and I drive up to the booth wherein resides the Canadian border person, still holding out my Nexus card.  Then, he says, "What are you bringing in today?"  Or something very much like that.  It might be just "Bringing anything in?" or "Leaving anything in Canada?"  But that is what they are supposed to say to me because they are looking at their information on me: they know where I live, that I'm an American, and that I'm driving a Washington-registered car.  If I were Canadian or something other than what I am, they might say something else, but I don't know what that would be.  I know what they are supposed to say to me.

And, when they say it, I say, "nothing today."  Or I say, "Just a quilt that I'm taking to a quilt group and that is coming back with me at the end of the day."  Like those things.  And then, the Canadian border guy says, 'Go ahead,' and I say, "Thanks," and we're done.

Yesterday, however, he had a little brain loss experience as I got there and instead of saying what he's supposed to say, he said, "What are you bringing back?"  And I was struck speechless.  I couldn't say "Not a thing," which was sort of accurate, because my brain got fixated on the "bringing back" part.  I wasn't coming "back," after all, I was "coming in."  And as I sat there speechless, he realized his error but was having no better luck trying to rescue this conversation.  Finally, as I was saying "Nothing," he said, "Bringing In," and we skipped the 'go ahead' and the 'thank you,' grateful the both of us to have managed to get past such a miscommunication difficulty.

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