If you've gone through customs to get back in the country, you know what a pain it can be. If you've gone through Customs in Atlanta, you know that there are moments when you think that the illegal aliens have it right - going through the desert and facing possible death might actually be faster than standing in one more line. Security is tight. Sometimes, there are so many one-way mirrors and people with official scary-looking badges walking around that I'm afraid that sneezing might look suspicious. And let's face it - after 8 hours on a plane with a couple of hundred other people - one being your 15 year old step-son and another being your attention-span-deprived husband - it's quite easy to look like a maniac bent on destruction. I feel like interrogating myself when I look in the mirror and I KNOW I haven't' done anything.
The basic routine is this: get off the plane, follow the designated (and only available) path down some stairs or an escalator, pass a few scary security people, go through a hall and into the "holding pen" to wait in line to get your passport checked while answering a few questions about why a good upstanding citizen might want to leave the country in the first place. Get a piece of paper stamped, move on to the next area to collect your checked bags while being circled by more badge-wearers who now have dogs with them. Take checked bags through another check point where you turn in the your stamped piece of paper and answer some more questions about what you might or might not have done while out from under the protective eye of our government. Get in another line and recheck your bags, before going through a security scanner that looks at you and and your carry-on bags. Get released to go forth and fly. (I think it might be faster to just get a pilot's license and fly myself across the Atlantic, but then I wouldn't be able to sleep for the entire flight).
As we were walking off the plane in Detroit, I realized that both of my shoes were untied. Since long trailing shoelaces aren't all that safe on escalators - and I had to get on one within 15 steps of the plane - I stepped to the side, against a wall, to tie them. Of course, this immediately made me look questionable, as I'm the only person doing something besides walking docilely behind the person in front of me towards the holding pen. My hubby took the opportunity to stand next to me, against the wall, facing the corner to take out his wallet and start re-arranging his different currencies so that the American money was easily reached. So I'm kneeling, and he's buried in the corner. Yes, security noticed. They came over and stood directly in front of me and looked over his shoulder watching as he methodically - and boy, was it methodical - counted out how much cash he had. He never noticed the guard, who gave me an "I've got a highly trained eye on you" glare and then followed us down the escalator at a discrete distance.
So we stood in line and got stamped and questioned and proceeded to pick up our checked luggage. I dropped my carry-on on the floor and told my stepson to watch it while I went up and waited for our suitcases to come around the conveyor belt. About this time, another security guy - this time with one of those killer drug sniffing dogs - headed our way. Killer went directly to my carry-on bag and started sniffing. And circling. And sniffing. And circling. He started to sit (Which, I believe, is the point where they put you and your bag in a tiny room to be searched), but then he apparently got indecisive and circled again. Then he repeated the entire procedure - complete with the almost sitting routine. Knowing that I had nothing in my bag that Killer would be interested in - I'm not a drug runner, and I don't carry raw meat across oceans - I left him to his sniffing and went to collect the baggage. He was taking so long with my bag I was beginning to wonder if a cute little "Miss Killer" had snuck in the side pocket and they were planning a rendezvous. By the time I got back with a suitcase, Killer and his scary looking escort were gone.
Fast-forward to the point where we're re-checking our luggage. The lady casually says "You don't have any liquids in your carry-on bags do you?" And I said "why, yes ma'am, as a matter of fact we have the equivalent of a small duty-free store between our two backpacks." And she proceeds to tell us that we're not allowed to take those on the plane. But we're welcome to open our suitcases and repack everything with the liquid safely stored and out of our carry on bags. So we grab our suitcases, open them up and take out our bags of dirty laundry and proceed to repack right there in the middle of all the TSA agents. Thank God the flashy red silk thongs with black tassels had not gotten bounced to the top of my suitcase, but several people did get a great look at my favorite blue Victoria's Secret bra.
Fast-forward to Saturday - we're home, recovered and unpacked. Best Friend is over for drinks and a recap of the trip, and I give her all the goodies I bought her. One of them - and the best thing I got for her - is a little blue and white flowered tin that opens up to reveal four miniature glass bottles that I got at an open-air antique market for about $5. And I mean these bottles are SMALL - maybe an inch and a half tall. But they're tiny and cute, which are the only things that are required for her to go crazy over something. Add the fact that they hide inside of something that's blue ... well, I really should keep smelling salts on hand.
She pulled out one of the glass bottles - making all the appropriate noises for a gift this cute - and stopped cold.
"Did you look at these bottles?"
"Yeah, they're cute, huh?"
"No! I mean yes, but look - they're all coated on the inside with white powder!"
Silence for a half a second as the alcohol fumes explain to me what this means.
"Oh my god! I bought you someone's old cocaine bottles!
And suddenly, the drug-sniffing dog trying desperately to get enough of a scent to incriminate me made all too much sense.