How to Escape America for $203 or Less

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 5.29.38 AMI haven’t traveled out of the country in a long time. So long that my passport has Soviet stamps on it. It’s old–extremely expired. I’ve been meaning to get a new one for a while.

“Want to go on a trip?” said my friend. It was an amazing trip. The mere invitation’s an honor. My heart sank. My passport…I can’t even go to Canada now, and no American gets banished from Canada. It’s like a slap in the face. When I lived in Upstate New York, we’d go to Canada to tap dance on the border if we were bored.

If we were bored and up to no good, we’d bring some Canadian quarters back and spend them in the United States, earning an eight-cent profit for each one. Once, I had a cold and I bought some Sudafed. It was still prescription here. I felt a little bit like a rebel. A rebel who could breathe. The Canadian economy is better than the US’ now so the quarter thing doesn’t work, and it’s legal to buy cold medicine now, you just have to fill out a million forms and promise not to make crystal meth. All the fun of going to Canada’s gone.

Besides, Customs Guy was on to us. He didn’t have a sense of humor.

I’ve said it before in my writings, and I’ll say it again–there are two types of people in this world that have no sense of humor. First is IRS. The second is customs.

“Purpose for your trip?” he asked.

“Tap dancing on the border.”

He heard our answer. He scowled. It’s never good to see a customs agent scowl. He scowled and stared us down. Neither side flinched. This could end very, very badly. Did Canada have it’s own Guantanamo? Probably not. These were the days before 9-11. Security was much lighter. Detaining us would result in paperwork for him. What was Canada going to do with two Americans, anyway? Give us free medical care? Torture!

I really wanted to go on this trip. I looked deep into my webcam and pleaded at the NSA agent assigned to me, “Please–you listen to my calls every day. You know I’m good.”

I took a deep breath and started the process. I had only eight weeks to get my papers in order–to prove I’m a dull American with simple hobbies like growing food, writing about education and crazy six-year olds, and practicing yoga. I said a quick prayer. I wondered if God Almighty could get a passport in eight weeks.

First, I read the State Department’s website. It’s pretty helpful. Next, the passport picture. State requires one small picture that looks like the person was just released from an INTERPOL lineup. I went to AAA. I  paid $8 and got the INTERPOL shot in two minutes flat. The helpful lady handed me all the forms and a list of the places I could go to turn them in. I cringed, expecting it to say Boston, New York, Mars, or Stamford. I’d need a bureaucrat who specialized in making people take a day off from work to give fingerprints and blood samples.

But it said…my town clerk’s office?

“Oh, we’re one of two towns that still does this.” How amazing! There must be a hidden camera with the real bureaucrat and a reality TV show. I gave her a couple of checks, and looked over my shoulder. No bureaucrat with a TV waiver emerged. “This should be about two weeks.”

Two weeks? I might be able to get a passport faster than the Lord.

All told, it was $8 for the INTERPOL approved photo, $170 for the passport and expediting, and $25 to reimburse the town for overnighting the packet. Amazing. All told, I can escape the country for $203 dollars. And probably get back in again.

That’s a bargain.

Time to see the world!

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