Quaint customs

Yadda yadda. Here is another one of those conversations I like to include sometimes. In a bid to make things a little more interesting, the cast is ME (me), IM (my internal monologue) and SCM (scary customs man). Enjoy.

SCM: We need to search your bag.
IM: Shit!

That was a good start wasn’t it? Let me explain: I am used to getting the Eurostar when I go abroad. Security is just a word there, they don’t actually do anything. Even at my most scruffy I can get away with them opening my passport in a cursory manner whilst looking over my shoulder at the nearest arab and wondering if merely “wearing slightly baggy trousers” is enough of an offense to put him in the back room with the French 12 year old police* and a million guns and stout sticks.

The reason I am saying shit is not because I am some kind of master criminal or terrorist, but because I suddenly realised I should have put one second’s thought into (a) packing and (b) all those posters on what was and what wasn’t allowed, as this lot actually seemed to care. Oh, I was at the bag check about to board a plane in Spain, by the way. Should possibly have said that earlier… sorry!

ME: Um, helloo.
SCM: You pack bag yourself?
ME: Er, yes thanks.
SCM: No one else touch?
ME: No. I don’t think so.
SCM: What is here?
ME: Er, well, there are some books… This one is a history of the origins of religion and this one is The Devil Wears Prada, that’s a novel. Er, I’m taking it back to England for my girlfriend, I’m not gay or anything. In fact I don’t even know what it’s about, something about shoes or something…
IM: Shut up Chris.
SCM: What is this?
ME: Er, that’s mouthwash.
SCM: Make bomb.
IM: Shit shit shit
ME: Er, no. It’s kind of for freshening breath and… er… reducing plaque. [I tilt my head back and do a gargling sound. The man stares at me for about 10 seconds. Don’t worry, I stop doing the impression of someone using mouthwash after about 3.]
SCM: I mean can use to make bomb.
ME: [small voice] I promise I won’t use it to make a bomb.
SCM: We will destroy it for you.
ME: Er, well… no, yes, that’s fine. Sorry.
SCM: Now I have to torture you by cutting off your finger tips.

Ah, well, actually I should probably admit at this point that we weren’t really communicating in full sentences. For someone in Basque Spain, his choice of languages (Basque and Spanish) were really very well thought out. My English and French were starting to look like very eccentric choices. So there was a lot of gesturing and using facial expressions. After a bit, I worked out this was not a threat of torture but in fact a query as to if I had any nail clippers.

ME: Ah, I see! No, no, I haven’t got any of them.
SCM: Okay, and this? [tissues] and this? [phone charger] and this? [front compartment of bag]
IM: Noreallythistime shiiiit!

Let me explain… There are traditionally two options to the opening question asked at customs: Yes, I packed this bag all by myself, and No, I have to have help to pack my smalls. Really I need a third option. Yes, I did pack the bag myself, but the three zipped up bits at the front are just used for shoving things in randomly. I think the last time I properly looked in these pockets was about 3 years ago. The reason the sweat on my forehead was suddenly getting involved in the story was that during this period I lived with a fair few people who… well let’s just say they occasionally used certain substances recreationally. Not Play Doh, sadly, nor Lego. In fact, I could have done with a Lego Dumbledore to placate the Scary Basque Man with his suspiciously straight moustache. The Internal Monologue got involved again at this point screaming at me something like: How could you possibly be in this situation?!!? What kind of person doesn’t know what is in their own bag?!

The customs man opened the zip. I don’t think he actually did it in slow motion, but it felt like it.

SCM: Some kind of joke?

It wasn’t drugs. It was nearly as bad though. It was four pairs of nail clippers. I wondered if it was too late to play it for humour.

ME: Oh there they are!
IM: Juliet, this is all your fault.
SCM: [even longer stare]
ME: To be honest I don’t go in that bit much…

To cut a long story short (too late, too late) I didn’t go to prison. He went away to test my nail clippers, which presumably failed the cutting-bomb-wire test, gave them me back, and passed everything else as safe. Even The Devil Wears Prada. The mouthwash was destroyed though.

I like to imagine in some kind of controlled explosion, and not just by being poured down the sink.

* the French police system is more than 12 years old, but the average age of a French policeman is 12. And sometimes their guns are bigger than them.

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10 thoughts on “Quaint customs

  1. You know, we won’t judge you for reading The Devil Wears Prada. You just shouldn’t blame it on your girlfriend! Hmm, you like figure skating, you like musicals, you read The Devil Wears Prada…..??!!

  2. I do feel a bit guilty about this story (well, deep down, my first thought was to laugh)

    They did the right thing with that mouthwash though, it was disgusting.

    I can’t believe that those nail clippers I loveingly gave you at Christmas were just shoved into the bottom of your bag!

  3. Four pairs? Really?… Is it one for each finger? And then leave the poor pinky nail grow godlessly long like those ancient chinese medicine men? Now, see, that would be cause for concern for the custom guard. (And for Miss Juliet:))

  4. I’ve got to go through that next week, I’m not looking forward to it! Especially seen as my passport photo was taken when I was 19, hungover and had long hair and hadn’t discovered eyebrow waxing yet. It’s not pretty and I’ve had a lot of comments about how different I look and is that REALLY me? One day, they won’t let me in somewhere, I just know it.

  5. Well done dear (see, how irritating that is?!)… you have managed to make it even funnier than when I heard the story in Caffe Nero. I haven’t laughed so much since I read about Pom’s spider.

  6. Molly you seem to be suggesting I am gay… just watch it. Welshy already thinks I am going to hell… how much post-death torturing to you want to subject me to?!

    Juliet, you have just admitted you bought me nail clippers for Christmas, thereby elevating yourself to #1 on the worst girlfriend ever list!

    Vapvib, I like the idea of a Geoffrey-Rush-in-Mystery-Men fingernail. I could have menaced the customs man with it, then I would have had the unenviable opportunity to blog about the condition of Spanish prison cells…

    Ellie, don’t worry! No-one looks like their passport photo. I don’t allow photos of me to allow themselves onto the web in general, but I would be fine with my passport one as I look like a 14 yr old skinhead, and am (almost) unrecogniseable, except perhaps to close family, or forensic science.

    And le Welsh, regrettably for you I do not at all object to being called dear. In fact, it is nice to know I am dear to you. The story is pretty much the same, it is just easier to tell in print than in person (although you miss out on my incredibly hilarious customs man accent this way… upsetting!).

    Your compliment is one of the worst I have ever heard though, as Pomme only blogged about the spider a day ago, so you are in effect only saying “the most I’ve laughed in the last few hours” which is rubbish… I might have to resort to telling jokes again. Remember the circus joke! Don’t make me!

  7. Me, say you were gay? No, never! I just think you are very cultured dear! And if you want to be a bit swishy on the side, go right ahead.

  8. Aww, my compliment didn’t seem sincere? I’m so sorry…
    The accent was good, everybody! I feel very priveleged…
    Not that i want this discussion, but when exactly did I say you would go to hell?!

  9. Well, not sure you actually said it… it was more in the eyes!

    Stop laughing Inc. You try thinking you are about to be put to work in an El Corte Ingles sweatshop and it will wipe the smile right off your face! Maybe!

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