Never Bow To Customs Agents

DON’T WORRY…this is not another food post, I promise. What?!? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and nothing makes you realize how mundane and cyclical your diet is like staying at home and self-isolating for four months. This then leads to the realization that you need to spice up things with more bacon and chocolate (Quarantine-15 is real y’all!). Anyway, no food talk. Well, I mean, there’s food talk—but it’s not a recipe. It’s actually M&Ms and sorry to all of you out there who have heard this story ad nauseam. It’s probably better told in person, especially when I can demonstrate with aforementioned M&Ms, but, well, social distancing and all that jazz…

This is a great cautionary tale of traveling internationally. I’d like to tell you it’s my only cautionary tale of traveling internationally, but, well, that would be a lie, multiple times over.

Anyone who has ever flown into Australia knows how stringent their Customs process is. Anyone who has never flown into Australia quickly learns how stringent their Customs process is. Despite other airport events to suggest otherwise, I know that you cannot bring fruits and vegetables and general food items into most countries. In fact, you cannot bring fruits between Oregon and California either—in case you’re ever road tripping up and down the West Coast of the United States.

What I didn’t seem to grasp at the time is that this concept also includes snacks…unless they are unopened and hermetically sealed. Even if you purchased a ginormous bag of peanut M&Ms and opened them approximately 14 hours into a 16-hour flight from LAX to SYD and had only eaten a couple of handfuls. They are now considered tainted and must be disposed of before entering Australia. But hello! this is me and I wasn’t going to easily hand over my nearly full bag of M&M’s because some cute Customs agent with a cute Australian accent said so.

Turns out, I was wrong.

PLEASE NOTE: As a general rule of thumb you should NOT argue with Customs agents. That might be Rule #2 when traveling in airports (Rule #1: never mention the word gun at the airport). Not that I was arguing, mind you—I was pointedly asking the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent what the difference was in opening a bag of—let’s just pick a random snack, like, oh I don’t know, peanut M&Ms—on a plane flying to a country and opening them in my hotel room in said country.

Please note that this was my very first flight to Australia and my first ever flight over 10 hours. I also spent 15 hours prior to this flight hanging out at LAX. Additionally this was way back when I could never sleep on flights. Needless to say, I was a bit wired and perhaps a little jittery from chugging coffee for about 26 hours straight. Thus when the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent told me I had to dispose of my newly opened extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, I just laughed because thought he was kidding.

Rule #2.B: Don’t Laugh at Customs Agents.

When I realized that he was not kidding, I did what I deemed the only sensible thing that I could do: I started eating them. Rapidly. But I am not rude and I offered all the Customs agents some of my M&Ms. Apparently, this is considered a bribe.

Rule #2.C: Don’t Offer Bribes to Customs Agents.

None of them took me up on my bribe. Thankfully, they didn’t seem interested in detaining me—only pointing out that they could. So there I stood. In front of the Customs table, stuffing my face with peanut M&Ms, looking like a chipmunk, batting my eyes at the handful of agents who were very interested in this crazy Yank and her refusal to willingly hand over her chocolate. I knew there was no way I could actually eat the entire bag at one time and began offering them to fellow passengers as they walked by. A shockingly large number of people took some, blatantly ignoring a life long lecture from their parents never to take candy from strangers. Perhaps the clustered group of gawking Customs agents made them feel safer. Perhaps the lure of candy coated chocolate and peanuts was too much to deny. Perhaps it was jetlag and disorientation from being on a plane for 16+ hours. Perhaps they knew this wouldn’t end well for me and were just trying to show support.

Eventually, I thought I got my point across (aka I gave up because I was actually starting to feel nauseated from too much candy). Plus I remembered that I had a connecting flight that I could not miss, despite my desire to best the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent who was completely unsympathetic to my chocolate plight. I reluctantly sighed, locked eyes with the cute Customs agent, and begrudgingly made a huge show out of throwing away my now 1⁄2 eaten large bag of recently opened peanut M&Ms. I really wanted to bow, but somehow—either knowing it was a bad idea or fearing I might puke—I refrained. Probably for the best.

Rule #2.D: Never Bow to Customs Agents.

My best advice to you when we can start traveling again is never bring anything ever into Australia. Except maybe clothes and shoes…

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