How to catch a smuggler

I was watching How To Catch a Smuggler the other day. Ever see that? I’ve seen so many episodes, they are almost repetitive now. It’s a reality show where they show people trying to smuggle drugs or illegal food or packages and things like that into various countries around the world, including the United States.

One time recently, I was coming through the JFK airport in New York and they flagged my carry on bag. The TSA guy called me over, “Whose luggage is this?” he yelled. “Mine,” I said, putting my hand up.

“Come over here,” he said. “And don’t touch anything!”

I replied, “I know, I know, I watch ‘How to Catch a Smuggler.” He laughed and said, “So do I.”

It ended up being a small pair of scissors in my luggage which set off their machine. He let me keep them and I was on my way.

I used to get nervous about being stopped at the airport, but it’s happened so much to me, I’m used to it now. These days, it’s getting my hands swabbed for explosives. Now I know the drill and when they start swabbing, I ask, “What are you doing, swabbing for explosives?” And they are taken aback and look at me.

Many years ago, I was traveling to Cleveland for a wedding. I had to stop in Atlanta. For some strange reason I was wearing cowboy boots. This was the first and only time I ever wore them. Again, I don’t know why.

I had my wallet in one boot, it was easier to carry and I didn’t have to sit on it, if it was in my back pocket.

In Atlanta, I was sitting, reading the newspaper, waiting for my connecting flight, and two big guys in suits came up to me. They said, “Sir, we have been watching you. Can you please reach into your boot slowly and take out whatever it is you have in there.”

So I reached down and took out my wallet. They looked it over. And I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but they said something about wanting to check my luggage. I told them that if they went to get my checked luggage they would make me miss my flight to Cleveland, but they were more than welcome to check it in Cleveland.

Their last words to me were, “Maybe we will.” And they walked away. I always remember those words as if it was yesterday, “Maybe we will.”

This was long before 9-11, it was in the 1980s in fact, so it was strange that they were keeping such a close watch on me traveling to the midwest of all places.

They never did meet up with me in Cleveland. I didn’t fly back home to Miami from Cleveland, I drove with my cousins after the wedding, back to New York and I flew back to Miami from NY later that summer.

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