Kingstonian with U.S. plates asks for kindness

A Kingston woman’s vehicle still carries U.S. plates, following her recent return to Canada. She said it makes her a target for harassment from other drivers, who fear COVID-19.

A Kingston woman with U.S. license plates on her car said she has experienced harassing behaviour from other drivers, and is worried about venturing out from her home.

The woman, who asked to be identified only as “Wendy”*, has lived in Indiana with her American husband since 2004. She returned to Kingston less than two weeks ago. As part of public health requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wendy is in mandatory 14-day quarantine until Monday.

“I got a lot of [dirty looks] as I travelled up to Kingston,” she said. Wendy entered into Canada through Windsor, stopping only for gas or to allow her dogs a bathroom break.

“Along the way there were several cars where the drivers and passengers gave me stink eye, or they would pass me, see my plates, swerve in front of me and then slam their brakes on hard,” she said. “They would ride alongside me trying to get my attention, basically giving me the finger.”

As she approached Kingston, Wendy said one particular vehicle kept pulling up beside her, trying to get her attention. “I would leave them behind, but they would eventually catch up,” she said. “They exited at the same exit as me, and followed me down [the street].” 

Wendy called ahead to her daughter, who lives at her Kingston home, and asked her to open the garage door so she could slip in. She turned quickly to evade the aggressive driver and escaped down a side street.  “It was scary,” she said.

The Canadian-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel on Mar. 21, 2020, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout North America. The Canadian government announced on Jun. 16 that the border closure would extend until at least Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2020. The United States has had 2.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, 1.5 million of which are currently active, exceeding every other country in the world by at least 1 million cases.

Wendy was born in Kingston and said her whole family is here. Approaching 65, she is following through with her long-term plan of coming home to retire. She purchased her Kingston home in the spring of 2019. 

During her quarantine, she and her daughter are living on separate floors of the house, with separate bathrooms. They comply with all public health guidelines, she said, keeping socially distant when crossing paths. Her daughter runs all the household errands in her Ontario-plated vehicle. 

Wendy is preparing herself to take her U.S.-plated car out on Monday for a necessary auto-service appointment. “I’m not looking forward to bringing it out of my garage,” she said.

“I would just like people to stop for a second and maybe realize that the person in that U.S. plated car has a legitimate reason for being here,” she said. “They have followed public health guidelines for self-isolating, they are practicing social distancing and wearing face masks. I know people are worried and scared, but could we just be kind instead of being negatively judgemental?”

Since returning to Canada, Wendy said she has received three follow-up calls from Public Health to confirm that she is in quarantine. Two were automated, and the third was from a live caller. 

Wendy’s husband is still working in Indiana while they complete his residency application. She had planned to keep her U.S. plates, and commute back and forth to see him, but that plan has changed. “I don’t think I’ll be going back to the US for quite some time now,” she said.

Editor’s note: This person’s name has been changed to protect their identity.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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