My goal for this week was to explain the title… but life happens. To be transparent, when I write my posts, this usually isn’t already known knowledge I’m dispensing. My blogs are more about figuring things out because I learn best by reflecting on life and trying to find patterns in the world around me as I try to make sense of it all. I’m not this wise guru ready to teach; I’m a student sharing what he’s learning. Thus, what started as a single lesson on anxiety has now turned into three lessons with at least one more on its way that will be written to explain this strange title.
This week I had an experience that made me put into practice what I’ve been writing about over these past few weeks, the three anxieties: Surface Level, Life Threatening Level, and Foundational Level. On Thursday, my day to watch my kids while my wife is at work, I had the task of driving across the border to pick up something from Home Depot and a post office. Fun fact, if I was American, I’d be crossing the border to Canadian stores because in many cases the prices are pretty much the same, which means with the American dollar crushing Canada right now, they’d be getting great savings. There’s the odd particularly great sale like I found, but for the most part, Canadian prices are pretty comparable. The other fun fact is if you ever want to order an American product, but don’t want to pay the cross border shipping fee, you can have it shipped to a spot just on the other side of the border (www.usaddressinc.com), but they have very limited hours of operation – an important fact for the story I’m about to share.
For this day’s adventure, my mom joined me and my girls, and as we drove on the QEW a sign said the Queenston Lewiston Bridge was a 30 minute wait. 15 years ago I learned the Rainbow Bridge closer to Niagara Falls is faster, so I went for it… bad choice; things have changed. This bridge ended up taking an hour and 45 minutes to cross – brutal! To make it worse, after fifteen minutes into this bridge journey, I kind of had to go to the bathroom, but there wasn’t anything that handy, so I told myself I’d be fine – nope. Nothing like seeing Niagara Falls when you have to go to the bathroom.
We made it about five cars out from the border check when I turned to my mom and said she had to take over driving for me; I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to run into the nearby building in hopes of finding a bathroom. The building I ran into was this little spot to the side of the border check where people from buses get sent to in order to have their IDs checked. I ran into the building frantically looking around and saw four border guards and I yelped, “Is there a bathroom I can use?” Apparently what I said was, “Death to America!” They were furious. The one guy in his early 30s started yelling at me, “You can’t be in here! You need to leave!” while the other three started to macho up like I was the leader of a gang and the invisible people behind me were going to Westside Story their butts – dance fight! I ended up stopping my approach and my voice squirted out, “I’m going to wet my pants!” Head macho man continued to repeat, “You can’t be in here! You need to leave!” In shock and panic because I really was seconds away from going regardless of where I was, I turned to leave and was thinking I hope I don’t get arrested when I go on a tree outside the building when an older guy in his 50s called out, “Hold on!” in a way that suggested I was about to get arrested – I guess he’s going to be my tree. He continued, “You can’t just come in here… but you can use the bathroom this time.” I quickly said thank you and started running towards him. I had my passport in my hand and running past I handed it to him like a baton as I continued to the bathroom where I had the longest number one I’ve ever had in my life. I’m pretty sure the guard was thinking I wasn’t just doing number one with how long I was, and I had dry pants, so I couldn’t care less.
After I was done, I left the bathroom with wet hands I was shaking to show I had washed them while doing a light jog towards the waiting guard – my angry savior. He told me not to run – I think that was his attempt of being nice, but it came across like an angry dad. As he handed me my passport he said in a very condescending tone, “This is the border. You can’t just burst in here. It makes my guys nervous. You need to plan when you’re crossing the border.” I sheepishly added, “I’m sorry; I’ve been in line for over an hour and a half.” To which he replied, “It doesn’t matter. It’s spring break and you need to be prepared for this.” After scolding me like a child, he then asked another guard to help walk me to my car like I needed a crossing guard going to school – it was the nicest yet condescending gesture possible.
I was really shaken by this experience – were they really that mean? After I got to the car, all I could think was I have people who are way smarter and who make way more money than these guards combined paying me good money to help them. Who are they to treat me like I’m a child? How do they have a right to treat anyone like they’re less of a human? They just a border guard. You’re not saving the world; you’re just making it difficult for people to visit another country we’re supposed to be friends with. Is your manhood that small or is your head that big? (The question when someone is mean.) He told me I should’ve been prepared for a long wait because it’s spring break, but they had four booths open when they could have had 12; why weren’t they prepared? Open up more booths, America. There’s no reason for the line to be that long accept for the fact that you enjoy torturing people, especially old people like me with small bladders.
What makes me laugh now is thinking how could my bursting into that room been scary for his men? Before any terrorist has blown themselves up, has anyone made their last words, “I have to go to the bathroom!” Kaboom? Has anyone ever said, “I need a bathroom! And when I am done then I shall kill the infidels! My bladder is my priority.” When Hitler sent his armies into Poland did they scream, “Don’t worry about us; we just have to use the bathroom!” The guard’s fear of me doesn’t make any sense. I’m a middle-age, white guy rocking a dad bod and no fashion sense to hide it. I don’t fit the profile of someone dangerous at the border. I fit the profile of someone with a strange fetish he hides from friends because it’s too weird to admit outside of his circle of mutually weird counterparts he found online. I don’t look like someone who wants to kill others… maybe his brain cells with too much booze because having toddlers when you’re 42 can be particularly wearing, but that’s safe for others. I don’t have energy to be a threat to others even if I wanted to. My priority is napping.
Even crazier, what crime or terrorist act would I be doing at the border? I’m robbing this building crawling with guards for the taxes you make people pay on their goods coming across the border and my brilliant move is to throw all the guards off by crying, “I have to go to the bathroom!” I wasn’t even in the right place to rob them for their tax money; this was a passport check spot. “I’m here to steal pocket change because everyone pays with cards… but first, can you tell me what building that’s in? Oh, and where’s the bathroom?”
If I wanted to blow something up, why would I choose the border: “I’m going to blow everything up including myself, so people can cross the border without showing their passports! Down with basic security!” What are they teaching these Americans at border patrol school (because the Americans are always meaner)? (teacher) “You are the heroes of the country and people will want to kill you because of jealousy.” (smart student) “If someone wants to kill us wouldn’t it be from us treating them like garbage and acting all high and mighty?” (teacher) “That’s crazy talk. People love being spoken to like they’re prisoners in jail. It’s what makes America great.”
So the fun conclusion to the story is after this terrible border crossing and having two toddlers being rangy in Home Depot because they’d been in a car for close to three hours, I decided to take them to Target to burn off some energy. After the store and while waiting from some food I just ordered, I realized, the post office I was supposed to go to closed 45 minutes before. One of the two reasons I crossed the border was now not going to happen because I didn’t pay attention to the time… genius.
So how did my discussion on anxiety the last two weeks help me in this situation?
- Needing a bathroom felt like a Life Threatening Level, but it could’ve been prevented if I paid attention to it when it was Surface Level – I created this problem by ignoring my body’s early warning.
- While driving home feeling defeated, I started thinking about how having to drive back to get the parcel the next day was a Surface Level anxiety. In a year, this moment wouldn’t matter, which made me feel better.
- While crossing the Rainbow Bridge and seeing the lane beside me be faster, I kept reminding myself how lucky we were to have a sunny day and to have a great view of the Falls.
- I was very thankful I had brought our portable TV for the girls, which made the border crossing tolerable for them (and no roaming fees on my phone).
- I was grateful my mom was there to keep me company and to help drive when I needed the bathroom.
- I’m grateful to now have a story to share – the worst moments make the best stories.
- I was reminded it could be worse when driving home because there had been an accident on the other side of the highway that stopped all three lanes – that would’ve been worse.
Bonus: If nothing else, I could look to God for added strength, which is a reason to connect with Him.
This week may you be able to remind yourself when an anxiety is just Surface Level and handle it appropriately in order to prevent it from becoming a Life Threatening Level (aka a near bathroom catastrophe) while also looking for ways to be thankful.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)