You can’t be too careful when it comes to packages from Canada

I was taking no chances; as far as I knew, Canada may have stopped being our ally during my walk home...
I was taking no chances; as far as I knew, Canada may have stopped being our ally during my walk home…

The afternoon started out like any other: leave the office, walk two blocks home, pass through our white picket gate toward the front steps, then holler “EVERYBODY STAY IN THE HOUSE” while dropping into an army crawl. Naturally, no one at home had any interest in coming outside until I yelled for them NOT to — at which point three of our children and both dogs attempted to squeeze through the doorway simultaneously, closely resembling a horde of diarrhea sufferers trying to de-board a subway car for the last working restroom.

“STOP!” I commanded, freezing them all — yes, even the dogs — on the porch, just inches away from a small white package with the word Liquid written in several places in black marker. The name on the return address wasn’t one I immediately recognized. The fact that it was from a foreign country (Canada) made it even more suspicious.

“Every one inside,” I said, explaining that I was going to open the package somewhere safe, away from the general population and in full firefighting gear.

My wife blew me a kiss and said something in her sweetest voice; and because I knew it could be the last time I heard it, her words resonated with extra meaning:

I’ll heat up the leftovers.

Wrapping the mysterious package in my coat, I arrived at the station a few minutes later. There, I could safely open the package without being a danger to anyone other than myself. This is actually a pretty routine scenario for me…

Standing outside of Station 2 with the Package of Mystery (white box)
Standing outside of Station 2 with the Package of Mystery (white box)

The next step was to decide on what is known in the fire service as an “initial entry” tool — something to breach the obstruction inhibiting us from eliminating the true source of danger. In this case, it was a 1/4-inch skin of slightly damp cardboard. After careful consideration, I felt a fire axe was the best tool for the job…

A firefighter's friend. Unless he drops it on his foot.
A firefighter’s friend. Unless he drops it on his foot.

I then found what I felt was the weakest point in the package, which had been meticulously wrapped in thick tape to ensure whatever was inside wouldn’t leak out during its long journey from foreign soil to my heavily fertilized yard. I lined my axe with the breach point…

Kids, don't do this at home. Ever again.
Kids, don’t do this at home. Ever again.

As expected, the box immediately EXPLODED! Or at least there was a loud pop. Probably caused by the bubble wrap. Inside was a metal can with its contents written on the front in a strange language: Sirop d’erable. Due to my years as a chef, and a limited knowledge of French, I deduced it either translated to “terrible soup” or “canned poutine.”

I don't speak fluent French, but I think I know
I don’t speak fluent French, but I think I know “terrible soup” when I see it.

That’s when I noticed the label was also written in English on the back — and suddenly it all made sense: REAL MAPLE SYRUP! From my friend and fellow blogger, Ross Murray! In Canada!

Think of how much time I could have saved if I just knew how to read French!
Think of how much time I could have saved if I just knew how to read French!

Now that the crisis is over, I’d like to thank Ross for sending my this can of delicious 100 percent pure maple syrup. I’d also like to ask my captain to please destroy the footage captured by our station’s security camera. If necessary, I’ll even make a pancake breakfast.

But you’re not getting any of my syrup.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

135 thoughts on “You can’t be too careful when it comes to packages from Canada”

    1. For the record, not all Canadians say “aboot.” I certainly don’t. Unfortunately, Rob Ford does, so that’s a great step backwards in stereotyping, as far as I’m concerned. He’s a great step backwards in many regards, come to think of it.

  1. That was very nice of Ross! I see you repaid him by plastering his address (and yours!) all over the Internet! LMAO! Perhaps your stalkers will be satisfied by a dollop of REAL maple syrup!

      1. Half the address you can’t read (nothing against your penmanship, Ross), and as you said it’s only a decoy address to throw the Feds off from your illegal syrup exporting compound. I think you’re safe.

        Me — I’m house hunting as we speak…

    1. Lol! He was smart enough to use a secondary address when he mailed it. I’m the one who’ll be found in less than 10 minutes if I ever commit a crime and try to flee!

  2. Take my word for it Ned, when I tell you this … are you listening? Get down on your knees and thank the higher powers you DID NOT get poutine. The smell of rotting cheese curds would require you fumigate the fire station for hours. Your chief would’ve been pissed.

    Maple syrup is good, especially since Ross is a Quebecer. I’m from there originally, and have tapped it myself. It’s the best.


    1. Hahaha! I’ve heard stories about poutine and none of them were good. Although some people swear by it. Of course, some people swear by sheep testicles, too. I just swear to never eat either one.

    1. I would never send anything so aggressive as flour. Instead, I’m lulling them into complacency and a sugar-crash nap with syrup. Don’t you see? It’s all part of my master plan to take over Ned’s blog.

  3. Who is this Ross Murray and how does one get him to send one a can of Canadian maple syrup?

    Is “maple syrup” some sort of code for Hobbit erotica?

    I’m so confused…

    1. Great! Now you’ve got me thinking… What if Canadian maple syrup comes from the Shire? What if tree nymphs are involved?

      I mean, hey — don’t get me wrong! it’s still syrup and I’m going to eat it whether it contains nymph or not. But it may keep me from having thirds, just out of respect.

  4. I knew it. I’ve been saying it for years… Canada is taking over the maple syrup industry through a Canadian conspiracy by sequestering US maple trees. As the environment profoundly changes, maple trees are dying off in the US and heading towards and into Canada. Soon even Vermont won’t have maple trees, then the rest of New England maples will head north to the colder climes. Good technique on the possible bomb threat. Lucy

      1. From the front lines of the supposed Maple Migration, I can verify that Vermont still has a stable foot hold in the Maple industry. And though I am New Jersey born and bred, I’ve been in VT long enough now to feel the need to challenge Canda’s claim to syrup superiority. Ned, watch your porch for a box labeled “not dangerous liquid.” You will be the impartial judge.

  5. Reblogged this on thedailygrime and commented:
    This reminds me of an incident that happened in my native city of Newcastle. The chemistry department of one of the Universities was expecting the delivery of a piece of equipment called a Bomb Calorimeter. When it arrived, there was no one there to sign for it, so the delivery driver just dropped it off outside the chemistry building. Due to the driver’s personal system of package identification, the cardboard box the equipment came in had the word “Bomb” written on it in black marker pen. As a fireman, I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

  6. Ned, I am glad that no one was injured or property damaged during this procedure – but maple syrup is not something to be taken lightly. Upon encountering a strange package bearing even the faintest scent of maple syrup, please use the following twelve-step protocol

    1) Secure the area by shouting and waving your heads which you apparently did not no effect. When this is ineffective – employ non-physical and non-intimidating threats.

    2) Immediately notify your state emergency management agency, unless it is after 5 p.m., if so immediately call the next day. If the incident occurs on a weekend, call immediately on Monday morning – after 8:30 a.m.

    3) Do not attempt to open the package. That is a job for civil servants. (It’s a union thing).

    4) Immediately, only after the previous immediacies, contact the federal emergency management agency and apologize for not calling them first.

    5) Contact your state environmental protection agency and apologize for contacting the state and federal emergency folks first.

    6) Contact your local units of government to soothe their bruised feelings.

    7) I apologize for forgetting the rest of the protocol. Go look it up yourself…

      1. We Canadians long ago learned to put all our exports in cans – far too many jars, bottles, plastic containers were destroyed by American fire axes upon arrival.

  7. Hilarious! While I enjoy your description of the maple syrup adventure, I most appreciated your incredible crowd control abilities. As a father of four I can on some level relate. Great wisdom also in protecting your family from such a suspicious package.

    1. Thanks, Dave. That means a lot coming from another father. My fourth child wasn’t home, otherwise the event might’ve ended in tragedy. Or at least a busted door frame.

  8. Hmm… I’ve never had maple syrup, (on a) Canadian or otherwise. What does it taste like? I bet it tastes like chicken, right? Everything tastes like chicken…

  9. Reblogged this on Drinking Tips for Teens and commented:
    So Ned at sent me a book. I didn’t have any of my books left to send him, so we cut a deal. I received my book, which is delightful. Wait, “delightful” is too girly a word for Ned. I need to think of a better word. But that’s Ned-er here nor there. Instead, here’s what happens when I fulfilled my end of the bargain.

  10. How sad is it that when I saw it was syrup I knew it was from Ross? I hope you poured it on your belly and let the dogs and children lick it clean. That’s not weird, right?

  11. god, that was close! you really held me spellbound, and my first thought, was great – now i’ve lost another blog follower. glad you were able to avert another potential crisis and save the town and my readership to boot! thanks, ned

  12. Just how well do you know this Ross character? You do know that a whole tractor-trailer load of maple syrup was stolen from a warehouse in Quebec last year? It wasn’t all recovered. Could be the mob branching out. Is Ross connected to organized crime? I think Interpol was involved in the sticky search. One thing in your favor is that it was in 45 gallon drums – but Ross could have repackaged it before distributing it intenationally. You should check with your local maple syrup registry (you do have a MSR in your home town, don’t you?) to verify your gift’s provenance before consumption. You can never be too safe. Happy Eating!

    1. All excellent points, Paul. Here’s the problem: I don’t think Ross would be willing to put that much effort into a heist that didn’t involve Anne Murray CDs.

      1. Hmmm, you do know that some was recovered in Kedgwick New Brunswick which is almost exactly half way between where it was stolen and Springhill, the home of Anne Murray? Coincidence? I think not. Whoever pinched the syrup had to have been on their way to Springhill. So do you still think Ross is so innocent? I’m a new reader of your blog and it looks like I arrived just in time to prevent a major intenational incident. Whew! That was close. (Great blog by the way – I signed up for the duration.Keep up the good work!)

        1. Ross Murray — sender of maple syrup
          Anne Murray — singer of syrupy songs
          Kedgwick — halfway to home of “Snowbird” singer
          Hedwig— Owl that delivers packages

          The evidence of fowl play is adding up quickly, Paul.

          Good to know you’re here for the duration 😉

          1. My pleasure.I find it very suspicious that Ross is speaking in “Maple Syruping”, using terms like “tapped”, which of course means “to bring out the best in someone (or thing)” , as in “He tapped a maple tree for the syrup” – not related to the American penal (no pun intended) System version of “tapped”. And if you doubt my geography – look it up on Google maps; Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, QC (where the contraband was stolen) is 505 Km from Kedgwick and Kedgwick is 473 km from Springhill. If you actually go from the warehouse to Anne Murray’s house it is exactly 500 kms in each leg. What do you think of that,eh? And, coincidentally Anne Murray released exactly 1000 different records, all with Snowbird as one of the songs (I can’t find the Google reference for this number, but it sure seems right to me). How much more evidence do you need that this Ross character is, in fact, the one sought by Interpol? ,

  13. I hate to out your friend Ross, but the syrup in the can is like our D level syrup. The good stuff comes in heavy crystal. However, the crystal packaging doesn’t come labeled with the picture of a typical day up here in Canada, so Ross gains some points back on that one.

  14. Ha! Sirop d’erable totally sounds like it would mean “Terrible Soup”. This was so much fun! I want people all over the world to send you weird stuff so you can open it with axes and post about it. 🙂

  15. That looks like a can of the 2011 vintage.

    If I recall, on first whiff, it has a bouquet of tart shells and pine cones. Held to the light, it has the colour of Pam Dawber from Mork & Mindy’s hair. The first sip holds flavours of Gordon Lightfoot’s guitar strap, nickel, and a playful tinge of 80,000 lbs of sugar. Upon decanting for 6.7 minutes, it offers up floral Axe Body Spray (“Beiber-ific!”) and hints of igloo exhaust. Burnt caramel and candied raisins finish off the lovely aroma.

    Dump it on pancakes and enjoy!

    Paul, eh?

    1. It is clear you are a professional syrup steward with highly developed taste buds that would rival Chef Ramsey’s. The question now is for me to decide how long to let this can “breathe” before pouring it onto my frightened pancakes.

      I also have to say, this is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read. Totally cracked me up! “… flavours of Gordon Lightfoot’s guitar strap…” priceless 😉

  16. I hate it when I am not one of the first numbskulls to comment on your blog. Oh wait…..

    BUT it is hard to believe no one has said this — YOU ARE A REAL SAP!!!

    Oh and now thanks to Ross you have the essential tool to fend off the boogie man, according to Bill Cosby.

  17. I assume you also had to consume most of it to ensure that it was actually from Ross and not some crazed fan trying to kill off your family so she could come and take care of you

              1. Is that how you run your show? Okay, I’ll try anything to protect my chicken. Little monsters. If I had an estate instead of being so broke-assed, I’d leave them out of the will. That’d learn em’.

  18. The last time we drove the young man to university in Quebec, not far from where your Canadian friend lives, I purchased a can of the above mentioned syrup. Well in all the hustle & bustle of wanting to return home, I forgot the can at the young man’s apartment. Normally I would ask him to mail it but since I am his funder it will have to wait until we return to Quebec.

No one is watching, I swear...

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