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I was caught smuggling...


Evelyn Hannon

I've been a travel writer for a very long time and I know all my rules for crossing borders. I'm aware that going through customs is never something to joke about. Quips about being a terrorist or referring to the gold bullion you're carrying in your backpack is not a good idea. Telling lies or omitting the truth when you're asked a question is something that could land you in hot water. Let's just say, 'I'm really border savvy' and because of this knowledge my name hasn't appeared on any country's 'no fly list.' Until this incident, that is...


Get to the airport on time...

Recently, I flew from Toronto to Amsterdam via the USA. Make that Chicago, USA to be exact. My first flight was very early in the AM; way before my usual breakfast hour. No problem; I popped a bagel and a banana into my purse and set off in the semi-darkness for the airport . I knew the drill. International flight: be there two and a half hours before departure. No sweat. I arrived in good time, breezed through the check-in process and headed for the baggage check. Took off my shoes and sent them plus my suitcase through the scanning process. Stepped through the scanning gate and nary a bell sounded. I was 'clean as a whistle' and ninety per cent through the process that would allow me to fly into the U.S. of A. Last step was to speak to the American customs officer and head off to board my plane.

'Cool', I thought. 'This is going well. At this rate I can relax at the gate and not feel hurried or harassed.


I answered all the questions...

I stood on the yellow line waiting for the custom officer to give me permission to approach his station. I was seriously tempted to put my toe over the yellow line but I held myself in check. You mustn't mess with border guards.

Told to move forward, I quickly approached the man sitting in booth number 18.

"Good morning," I said.

He looked up and scowled. One could immediately tell that this was not a fellow to mess with.

He continued to glower and asked in rapid succession ...

Name? Where do you live? Where are you going? Why? Do you have any food?

I answered as quickly as I could...

Evelyn Hannon, Toronto, Amsterdam, Holiday, Yes.

But, wait ... something I said seemed to be terribly wrong. He picked up the dreaded 'red' pen, wrote on a (dreaded) customs form, handed it to me and pointed to a door marked, SECONDARY INSPECTION.

'Go there,' he said. He allowed no questions. His words were final.


Through those heavy doors...

And so with my heart in my mouth and very much perplexed I went 'there'. Through those heavy doors into U.S. interrogation and towards a female officer sitting behind a desk. I waited while she reprimanded a very frightened traveller for getting out of the chair that the traveller had been assigned to. Then it was my turn.

I was asked to surrender my passport and tickets and I too was assigned a chair amongst the other 'criminals.' I sat and I sat as others were called to answer for their sins. Then it became my turn.

Who's Evelyn?', a staff officer shouted.

I raised my hand and approached him.


I can't lie...

'What have you got,' he demanded as he pointed to the form in red ink. "It says here you were carrying contraband."

'A bagel and a banana for my breakfast,' I answered as politely as I could (considering what I was thinking inside).

'They sent you here for that?' he asked.

I nodded my head.

He handed me my passport and tickets, pointed to the door and said, 'Out.'

And that exactly where I went. Out ... to catch a plane to my holiday destination.

Now, I can only hope that I'm not listed in their formidable computer system -- Evelyn Hannon, highly dangerous, caught red-handed smuggling a bagel and a banana into the U.S. of A.






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