I know that this TV series which was aired on National Geographic had a lot of fans – myself included. Unfortunately the series has been pulled because of some rights violations so now we will no longer be able to sit in our lounges and pass judgment on people who are “pulled over” going through customs and immigration.
You know how it goes “There you go… I knew she looked edgy” …. Or “You see – I knew he was lying” … yep – my kids hate watching TV with me and having to put up with a running commentary. (Below follows a message from my kids).
Being in the travel industry it is just so interesting to see behind the scenes at Canada’s major airports and how people are questioned. It also has made me quite neurotic about filling in the proper information on my customs form when I return to Canada.
I keep a note of all purchases and also keep the receipts and even if I have bought an item of clothing which I have already worn I still declare it. Really I am not a huge shopper so I never exceed the limit but it has certainly made me more conscious of what I buy. So on my flight home I sit down with a piece of paper and make a note of all my purchases in Euros or whatever currency I spent and then convert out to Canadian so I have a total of what I have spent. I keep this note handy so if the customs officer asks me what I spent the money on or what I bought then I give him my list.
So why do I still feel guilty?
Maybe it is something to do with having watched the TV series. Standing in a line up after a long international flight it is a bit daunting when you are finally at that painted line on the floor waiting for the next officer. And all I have are some t-shirts and the odd dress and some chocolates or candy for the girls in the office.
So why do I still feel guilty?
I can’t imagine how someone would feel who was actually smuggling something in that they shouldn’t. Remember that scene in Midnight Express – oh my goodness – I would be shaking like a leaf.
Apart from the usual suspects (drugs and alcohol), people have tried to smuggle in the weirdest things – like lizards! Yes, 6 baby lizards to be exact, smuggled into Canada by some guy in the pocket of his hoodie. Yep – he was caught and fined $6000. A lot of the confiscated goods at customs are food items (and we always see that on Border Security). I can’t quite see myself smuggling in chicken wings or fish cakes or even a human skull (yes someone was caught with one of these in her bag).
So I will keep making my lists on the flight and declare everything I buy and try not to look too shifty when I pass through customs – and try not to feel guilty.
I love watching Border Security – the documentary series that follows the events at the border both at airports and on the road. Having spent so much time in airports myself it is just fascinating to watch what people will try to take into another country. It’s not just the drugs but the other stuff – like weird food or tens of thousands of dollars in cash packed in your checked luggage ????
But come on! Have you ever brought anything into Canada when returning from a trip that you didn’t declare? What about that fancy purse you bought in Vegas? The one where you cut off all the tabs and filled it with your personal stuff and then ditched the old one at the hotel? C’mon – you know you did it!
Just filling in the declaration form on the flight is bound to bring tears to your eyes when you jot down a list of what you spent. This can’t be right, you think to yourself.
Just say you do get stopped at a “random” check. OK so you’re clean. But what the heck were you thinking about when you bought that apron in Florence for your best friend? You know which apron I mean – the one with the close up and very very personal picture of David?
Or why would you have 10 individually wrapped bars of soap in your suitcase as well as eight shower caps, six bottles of shower gel and two coathangers? Really? Not to mention the three cans of olive oil and two tins of truffles. These are not generally a problem (except maybe to the hotel from whence you filched said coathangers) but you really run into problems with some food items.
Talking of smuggling food reminds me of a time back in Swaziland where we had a Cholera epidemic. The Swazi authorities decided to ban all fruit and veg from coming across the border in South Africa. Well the fact of the matter was that most of our fruit and veg came from South Africa and nothing was coming into the Swazi shops. I’m talking lettuce, cucumbers, apples. Those who had green thumbs were to be envied and if you went to a dinner party and there was a lettuce salad you were the bee’s knees!
So…. we went shopping in Johannesburg and I confess I could not resist the package of Granny Smiths green apples. I just had to have them. Now the border guards were pretty thorough and would search the cars for evidence of edible contraband. Clever me though had an idea. Let’s put the apples in the engine under the hood just before we get to the border and then we can stop around the corner and take them out again. Easy peasey! Until the very friendly Swazi policeman asked for a ride into town. Oops! We drove and drove and I could just picture in my mind my lovely packet of apples bumping along next to the battery under the hood.
FINALLY – we dropped him off with much thank you’s and clapping of hands as the Swazis do….. whipped around the corner and stopped to open up the hood to find…… yes – a very large soft package of stewed apples.
That will teach me!
Yes they made a movie about this – pretty bad one actually – but fantasy becomes reality on an Egypt Air flight recently. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/egyptair-snake-on-plane-emergency-landing-passenger-bitten_n_2238602.html
So you can imagine the reaction when there really is a snake on a flight. Images abound when you google “snakes on a plane” – some of them from the film and others not so much. It seems pretty ridiculous that someone can sneak on a snake. The security I went through on my recent travels (on Egypt Air no less) was quite stringent. But I guess snakes don’t have belt buckles or cell phones that could trigger security alarms and I wonder what a snake in a bag looks like on the x-ray? Did you wonder too? Then wonder no more…. here is the real thing.
Seen by security officials in Australia. … It really could only be snakes, unless someone was trying to smuggle in sausages. Makes you wonder what other weird things people try to smuggle onto flights. I was told last week by someone who shall remain nameless, that she smuggled pork chops into Dubai when her son was working there because, for obvious reasons, you just can’t get pork chops there. Problem was, her flight was delayed and therefore so was her luggage. Happy ending – the pork chops arrived frozen solid. Just as well she had it in her checked baggage and not carry on!
How would you feel sitting next to a man with monkeys in his pants? Seriously. “In 2002, when customs workers opened a man’s bag in Los Angeles after he returned from Thailand, a bird of paradise flew out. They ended up finding three more birds and 50 rare orchids in his suitcase. When officials asked him whether he had anything else illegal he was bringing into the country, the man said, “Yes, I’ve got monkeys in my pants.” He turned over the pair of young pygmy monkeys, which are an endangered species in the U.S., that he had been carrying inside his underwear, and they were taken to the Los Angeles Zoo. The man received a 57-day jail sentence.”
And finally – back to the snakes. A woman from Sweden was caught with 75 snakes in her bra on a flight. I am not kidding – 75 snakes. Where the heck do you put 75 snakes in anybody’s bra? Customs officers became suspicious when she kept scratching herself. I am surprised the man with monkeys in his pants wasn’t scratching himself too.
So next time you get on a flight take a hard look at the person sitting next to you. You never really do know…..