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.
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.