Feb 8, 2006

"Good morning," I chirp ... at 5pm.

"It is not," the French-Canadian passport official gives me a sharp glance.

"Sorry, time-zone change. I'm from Seattle, it's almost morning there. Kinda."

"This is the joke? You find this funny?"

"No, no joke. I'm just exhausted."

The barrage of suspicious questions begin. What do I do? Journalist. Why Quebec? Carnaval.

Blimey. I'm about to be the first non-criminal denied entry to the Great White North since the conscientious-objector era. Taking a chance, I lean forward and confess: "I'm going to take the Snow Bath. I'm not only tired, but very stupid."

The officer guffaws, glances at her colleague for support, then howls with laughter.

"Is it that bad," I ask?

"Yes, I am from Quebec and even we do not do this."

"So I'll be running around in the snow with a bunch of other crazy foreigners?"

"Oui. But first, you must ask for caribou."

"What? The skin?" I'm imagining a Raquel Welch fur-kini number now. Very fetching. Except all the other vegetarians might kick me out of the club for wearing pelts.

"No, no. The drink. Ask for much caribou – gin, rum and fortified wine – before you go outside," and then, laughing still, she waves me past. "Good luck. You'll need it."


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