Sunday, November 28, 2010

How I Broke a Customs Agent

Warning: This post may not be suitable for people with sensitive ears.

I love to have fun at work. Sure, there are a lot of times when flying airplanes is a pretty serious business, but there are also times when joking around with other pilots and flight attendants is the only way to stay sane.

The other night we had just flown over Cuba and off in the distance I saw the island of Grand Cayman. I was reminded of a time I had a customs agent laughing so hard, he was nearly in tears. Now, Customs and Border Protections agents are kind of like the guards at Buckingham Palace, they're tough to break. However, with all the passes I make through the customs's fun to try.

A few years ago, I had started a 4-day trip out of Houston with a flight to Grand Cayman and back. Often times, pilots and flight attendants use those trips south of the border to restock their liquor cabinet or replenish their cigar collection. This would be my first trip to Grand Cayman and before we left, one of the flight attendants told me there's a particular type of rum that's only available in Grand Cayman. I'm always a sucker for picking up things that are only available in certain locations, so when I heard about the rum that's only available in Grand Cayman, I had to get it.

After we touched down in the island paradise, I was hoping our plane would break down and we could stay for a few days. But alas, the ol' B-737 was operating like the finely tuned machine it is, and we only had an hour on the ground. I headed inside to the duty free store with a few other crew members. One of the flight attendants pointed out the rum that was only available on this pristine island. I examined the bottle; it wasn't expensive and I had heard that it isn't the best quality rum. So what makes it so special? The name; Big Black Dick.

I purchased the bottle and headed back to the airplane. On the flight back to Houston, I was filling out our customs declaration form, which is when I thought I'd have a little fun with the customs agents. On the form where it asks you to write what you've purchased abroad, I wrote, "1 - Big Black Dick - $12."

We landed back in Houston and headed to customs. I showed the first agent my passport and paperwork, neatly filled out and stating what I had purchased. He swiped my passport through his computer, stamped my declaration paperwork, and said, "Have a nice day." Well, that's not the reaction I was looking for but I still have to hand in the paperwork to another customs agent before I'm allowed to enter the United States.

I headed downstairs where the agent was collecting declaration forms from passengers and crew. The customs agent in my line looked a lot like the actor Michael Clarke Duncan. In other words, he looks like the kind of guy who eats people like me for breakfast. Uh-oh. I anxiously approached the agent and when I reached his post, he looked like any other customs agent; no smile, eying up every passenger like they're the next terrorist, ready to kill at any moment. I handed him my form, he looked down at the paperwork, then looked up at me. I just stood there like a goober, not sure if I should smile and praying I wasn't going to end up in a back room for a "special" inspection. He looked back at the paperwork, straight faced, looked back at me...and burst out laughing! I breathed a huge sigh of relief and started laughing along with him. He told me that a friend of his lives in Grand Cayman so he was familiar with what I was declaring, which is probably what kept me out of the interrogation room.

I brought the rum home and the reviews were right, it's not that great...but it makes for a good story about the day I broke a customs agent.

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