Strange Customs

Maple Syrup The Life of Kylie

I’m not trying to be disrespectful. I’m just thrifty.

My husband swallowed a laugh as the customs agent replied that I would have to give the banana peel to the Agricultural Inspection Agent.

Beginning to comprehend the gravity of our situation, I quickly stuffed the banana into my mouth, passing the rest to my ever-helpful husband.

They’d already taken my adorable tin of authentic Canadian maple syrup, I thought. They were NOT going to get my banana too. That tin was a gift for my mom from the public market! If only I’d remembered to pack it in our checked bag. What was I thinking?

The agent handed back our passports and walked us to the back-room. You know, that special, scary, glassed-in, high-security, back-room where they interview suspicious people, smugglers, and would-be terrorists. Also: thrifty travelers who pack healthy snacks for international flights.

As we waited for the Agricultural Inspection Agent, we solemnly took in the poster taped to the front of his desk. Who knew fruit-flies were such a grim threat to international security? If only our banana had retained the sticker firmly identifying it as a product of Central or South America, from a farm owned by Dole or some other trusted corporation, we’d be on our way home by now.

Instead, we sat in the chairs and quietly waited. That banana could be from anywhere. Even though it was in stage 3 of the digestion process by now, the peel could still bring our native country to its knees, and there was no trashcan to be seen.

I reflected on our fate.

What if we missed our flight home? What if this next Agent detained me? Would he be the one who’d finally notice that the hyphenated married name on my ticket did not exactly match my pre-married, pre-hyphenated name on my passport?

The Agent approached his desk. He glanced our way and declared he’d be with us in a moment. He had another offender to inspect first.

He let the guy go–I wondered what he’d been carrying. Apples? Grapes? Strawberries are in season. Why was he first?

How bad was our situation, really?

The agent called us up, inquired about the contents of our bags, ran them through yet another scan. We confessed we also had a pair of peanut butter & banana sandwiches.

He held up a zip-lock bag for the offending banana peel, waved away our harmless sandwiches, and escorted us to the door out to the airport. Free.

At last.

And right there in front of us was a Duty-Free shop. I had never before been tempted to enter such an establishment, living in a state with no sales tax and being a woman of little need for enormous bottles of ethanol, whether in hard liquor or perfume form.

But they had maple syrup.

Eyes flashing, I turned to my husband, demanding, “How much Canadian money do have left?”

He handed it over and I began examining the price tags on every bottle of syrup in that store, determined to replace that gift for my mom and to get some for myself. Justice would be served, and I’d taste it on every pancake.

I brought two identical maple-leaf shaped glass bottles of syrup to the counter. They’d come in at just under $20, Canadian.


As we made our triumphant way to the gate, I searched around in my purse for some lip-balm and found my bottle of hand sanitizer… not in a baggie!

The one flammable, undeclared item that could actually pose a threat… completely undetected.

That’s just bananas.


Maple Syrup The Life of Kylie
Strange Customs

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27 thoughts on “Strange Customs

  1. IT’S SO CRAZY. All the stuff they make us do now in the name of air-safety. I once carried on two bottles of wine. I miss those days.

  2. I once had to fly with syringes for some medicine I was taking. The security guards confiscated a bottle of water from my bag, but completely ignored the entire bag of needles sitting next to it. Airports are weird.

  3. Loved this whole thing, but the way you ended it was like a cherry on top of the very sweet banana debacle 🙂 You are an excellent story-teller!

  4. Hey, those fruit flies are evil incarnate! As are the fire ants, the Africanized bees, and tons of other critters who have inadvertently hitched a ride into the country. You are lucky they didn’t strip search you!

  5. The idea of going through security for a domestic flight gets me anxious (What if they decide I’ve done something terrible that I didn’t mean to do?). I think if I got detained at customs I’d just curl up into a ball and die.

    1. It’s scary, embarrassing, and time-consuming all at once. I’m terrible about remembering what’s allowed and what isn’t, especially since so many things seem harmless.

  6. This gives me so many flashbacks to my childhood and the California Border Patrol checkpoints. My little sister and I used to call them the Banana Police. The year we bred fruit flies in science I fantasized about answering the “got any fruit” interrogation with “no, sir, just this vial of fruit flies. They’ve got red eyes and dumpy wings! Super recessive!”

    1. Ha! . The Banana Police are everywhere.

      These were bananas that had come from S. America, shipped to Vancouver, BC (purchased there) and then blocked from entering Oregon.

  7. Mmm, Canadian maple syrup! Yummy. I bet it’s good! We get waved in at the border from Nevada to California where they simply ask if we have any fruit. It’s pretty casual there! I wonder if anyone says yes.

  8. It’s a whole new world now in terms of flying, isn’t it? Some of what they do seems crazy, but I suppose the alternative is worse. At least you had a nice dose of potassium from your banana before they detained you. 🙂

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