Dennis and I had never been to Canada.
So, in February of 1971 we decided to hitchhike from Terre Haute, Indiana to Toronto by way of Detroit. A kindly gentleman in a pick-up truck offered to take us over the bridge to Windsor, on the Canadian side of the border.
He said, “If you are dodging the draft, don’t tell me, but I’m willing to try to get you across.”
At the border, the guards asked him who we were. “Just friends.”
We would have made it had our backpacks not been spotted in the bed of the pick-up. The three of us were interrogated in separate rooms. It was clear our driver knew nothing about us. “I’m sorry, but we are going to deny you admission to Canada. You must return to Detroit.” The official sounded quite official.
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Then I felt guilty; I had just been treated as if I were a criminal. On top of this, I felt tremendous rejection.
Dennis seemed quite cheerful. “Great.” He said, “Would you write me a letter?”
“I just want you to write me a letter rejecting me from Canada.”
“We’ve never done that before. I don’t even know what you are asking for.”
“Well,” He paused, “Since Junior High, I’ve been writing short stories and submitting them to literary magazines. I have not yet had a story accepted, but I have quite a collection of rejection letters from some of the world’s finest publications. However, this is the first time I’ve ever been rejected from an entire country. Would you write me a letter?”
The fellow laughed. “Why not?”
“Great. I’ll tell you what to say.”
Dear Mr. ##########
Thank you so much for your submission to Canada. Unfortunately your offering does not meet our needs at this time.
We wish you the best in your endeavours.
P. S. God Save the Queen
That night we managed to hitch to Oberlin, Ohio and spend the night in a house full of young co-eds. That was fun.
The next day we attempted to enter Canada for a second time, from Buffalo. The border guard spotted us immediately. A telex had been sent from Windsor describing two whackos.
As he pulled us out of the car, the guard said, “I suppose you’ll want another rejection letter.”
If you are going to go far, you’ll need to deal with lots of rejection. Start a collection.