So there I was yesterday, walking through customs with nothing more suspicious than West African Yams and West Indian plantains – only to do something really, really suspicious: I made small talk with the friendly customs officers.
I suppose the chapter on Distractive Chit Chat has to be up there in the customs officers’ training manual as one of the most important. I can almost see the underlined passage:
‘the experienced drug-runner will try to put you off your guard by effusive and friendly banter. Don’t be distracted from your job. If they chat a bit too long, pull them off the line and search a bit too long.’
So they duly pulled me off the line. I continued to chat doggedly until the clever white lint they snaked over my laptop keyboard went into their secret little room and came out buzzing: it had tested positive for cannabis. The nice customs officer read me my rights: I could confess right now that I was using a medically prescribed drug that contained cannabis. No, I insisted (sounding uncomfortably like a Tory politician in the ten or fifteen minutes before his old ‘friends’ start calling the red-tops) never used the stuff. So they pulled out all the stops. I could feel the electricity in the air as they all waited for the moment of the bust. I could see the mental wagers going: 1 to 5 it’s in the waistbag!
Ten minutes later, my mobile phone had also tested positive, and I was reduced to a series of ‘this is preposterous’ splutters. My two lonely yam tubers went into the X ray machine, the larger one showed a suspicious patch that required a second and third scan. I offered to slice it open but they declined and passed it (the smart-arsed lint had already passed it as well). ‘It’s only your personal effects that tested positive.’ they told me sniffily, but a mite resentfully: the red alert was over; I wasn’t ‘carrying stuff’.
‘Your machine is probably faulty,’ I consoled them, ‘I’ve never touched a joint in my life.’
They smiled. They had obviously heard that one before, ‘The machine is fine, it was actually recalibrated just before your flight.’
As I left their bay, the target of most of my banter confessed: ‘It’s actuallly very sensitive equipment. You can pick up enough cannabis to test positive just by shaking hands with a smoker…’
So there you have it, dear friend of Chuma Nwokolo, whose hand I shook so warmly two yesterdays ago – before fatefully retiring to my laptop and telephone (and who shall remain nameless in this blog, but we know ourselves, don’t we). Don’t be surprised when next time we meet my handshake is a little less prompt: I shall only have been calculating how long before my next international trip.
Have a great 2008, all of you.