Friendly Folks on A Maple-Leaf Tour

THE nicest thing happened. We are just back from our annual fall visit into Canada, but this time we reversed our direction. Usually we go up to Quebec, move easterly along the Trans-Canada Highway into New Brunswick, and come home to Maine. This time we crossed at Woodstock, New Brunswick, but that didn't make too much difference. It was at Woodstock that the amiable young lady at Canadian customs greeted us with a generous smile, as if she had been waiting impatiently all morning for us to show up. Giving us a hearty welcome, she asked how long we might stay and what would be our destination. My helpmeet and travel companion thereupon said, "Why, for pity's sake, can't our own people be like that?" So it is. With few exceptions over the years, the United States Customs and Immigration Services have been generally grumpy to us, and have tarnished our border-crossing recitation of "This is my own, my native land." I told the young lady we were peeper people and would pursue the lure of the autumnal glory of the rampant sugar maple now here and now there, but we'd probably get as far as Riviere du Loup. "Oh," she said, "that will make you a beautiful trip!" Then she gave us a little folder which we didn't look at until that evening in our lodgings and said, "Enjoy your visit!" We did get to Riviere du Loup and we did enjoy, and when we came back into Maine at Jackman I spoke friendly-like to our United States agent thus: "Good morning!" He said, "Where were you born?" with something of an inferential suggestion that because it was his business I couldn't very well tell him it was none of his business. Then he asked my friend where she was born, and turned away in a gesture we assumed was our permission to resume our native citizenship. Oh, well .... My wife said, "Some different, eh?" But the folder the girl at Woodstock gave us turned out to be our instructions about recovering certain taxes we would be paying while in Canada. Canada, we learned, had lately enacted a goods and services tax of 7 percent, but as visitors we could get back some of that if we wished. Revenue Canada, we learned, had a "visitors' rebate program," and all we had to do was fill out the form and stop at a tax office by the boundary. Or, we could mail to Ottawa, and there was a toll-free number we could call f or assistance. Home in Maine, every time our addled state legislature thinks up a new tax, the taxpayers are consoled by the reminder that the summer people will help. Soaking the tourist is Maine's principal industry, but the tourist can find solace in the fact that the natives get soaked, too. Maine practices equal opportunity. But now, perhaps for the first time in the history of taxation, a victim can step up and get a rebate. The folder has a pleasant note from the Honorable Otto Jelinek, who is Canada's minister of revenue, offering in a way his condolences over this inconvenience, but suggesting he is trying to make things as easy as possible. The whole tone made us wonder why Quebec wants to secede, anyway. When you have a good thing, stick with it. No, we did not fill out the form, and we did not apply for a refund. Just as well, because when we got to the "hors taxes" bureau the place was crowded by folks who did - the automobiles had US license tags. This bureau was maybe 100 yards from the border station where we were asked about our birthplaces. Otherwise our maple-leaf tour was given to leaf-peeping, and we gleaned little of important news. The refusal of Vermonters to authorize the purchase of Quebec hydropower seemed not to disturb everybody in Quebec, not so much on the economic side but because there is good sympathy for the Cree Indians whose land may be flooded at James Bay. We heard only one remark about the secession of Quebec, and that from a "Kaybecker" who said his Scottish accent is misleading, because he is Canadian French all the way - his family came to America in 1603. He said he thought that when it comes to preserving French culture, it would be well if France separated and joined Canada. The man was our motel neighbor one night and had twinkly eyes and a good grin. He was on his way to Nova Scotia to visit the cemetery of his ancestors at Grand Pre. The color was good, all the way. Including the maple in our dooryard at home - the one over the garage.

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