Clearing Customs

July 2016

I’d like to share a recent travel-related embarrassing experience. I returned from France a few days ago, and as required to reenter the United States from another country, I had to fill out a US Customs Declaration form. It included the questions: “Have you visited a farm/ranch/pasture outside the US?” and “Have you been in close proximity of (such as touching or handling) livestock outside the US?”

I answered yes to both, because in Normandy, our group stayed at a beautiful chateau on a horse farm. While we didn’t sleep in the stables amongst the animals, we were free to roam the place and hang out at the pasture fence and pet the horses and see the newborn colts and have the whole genteel pastoral experience. (“Willl-burrr!”)

So after deplaning, I waited in a long line to give my form to the Customs officer in the little glass booth. He read it, eyed me and asked, “Were you on a farm?” I said yes and explained. “Oh, OK. I’m not concerned about horses,” he said, and stamped the form and handed it back to me. (I was really curious which animals were of concern, but didn’t ask, as I was pretty sure it would increase the risk of being strip searched.)

After that I went to the baggage claim, found my suitcase, and joined a big sweaty sea of humanity in line for the second Customs checkpoint. As we were funneled forward, I saw there were two Customs officers processing my line: a young trainee (I’ll call him Sprout) and a grizzled older guy (I’ll call him Longtooth) who was overseeing him. Their job was to look at the outside of each traveler’s suitcase (I think to confirm none were leaking white powder, currency or hazmats), check that their form had been stamped, then place it on top of a big pile on the desk, after which they’d wave you through. It was a very quiet operation; all I heard were mumbled hellos and thank yous.

When it was my turn, I handed Sprout my form while Longtooth glanced at my bag. Then Sprout put it in the stack, but when he turned to wave me on, Longtooth stopped him and pointed at my form, frowning. They exchanged a couple hushed words, then Sprout turned back toward me and said, in a booming voice, with better projection than any game show announcer, “WHAT WERE YOU DOING WITH THE LIVESTOCK?” The 100 or so people in earshot all stopped and gaped at me. I could feel them thinking, “So that’s what a depraved international bestiality tourism pervert looks like. Poor defenseless creatures! I hope she burns in Hell.”

(Needless to say, I trotted out of there as fast as I could. My boyfriend Trigger and I had such a good chuckle about it later – he laughed so hard that oats came out his nose!)

©NLWalsh, All rights reserved.

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