I was a (Minor) Threat to National Security
I am back Stateside from Canada but not before an intense confrontation with border officials. No, really. It wasn't that bad. But I did get caught. I honestly declared on my U.S. Customs' form that I intended to bring back a small amount of cooked, vacuum-sealed "smoked meat" (pastrami, for you Yanks) from a certain deli in Montreal and was told by a particularly humorless border guard that I could not do so as all types of "meat" from Canada is quarantined for entry into the U.S.
"But it's for a sandwich for my father, I pleaded," as if that argument trumps federal regulatory law. Not impressed, the Custom official then said, perhaps hoping to get me for perjury as well as pastrami smuggling, "sir, is it a sandwich or a whole brisket?" I copped to a whole brisket, from the famous Schwartz's deli in Montreal, and swear I could see the entire Customs' team licking its collective chops as I hauled the six-pound delicacy out of my bag and left it there on the table. It was either that or become a cause celebre for the sake of salted, cured meats and while there is nothing better in the world to eat than an old-fashioned "medium" smoked meat sandwich I certainly wasn't willing to miss my flight for it (much less be held between borders for it).
The real question though came when I told the Custom official that she should give me points for honesty (and, remember, this is all taking place at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning) allow me to take my non-Mad-Cow-disease-riddled package through. She said forget it. So then I said, angrily, "well then next time I just won't declare it" because you are punishing me for being honest about declaring an item that is no more a threat to our safety than the bagels I'm also bringing back. And that got her really angry, too. She reminded me that lying on a Customs form is itself a federal offense. So there we were. I backed down. She got the brisket. I got to come back home. No man is above the law. And no good deed goes unpunished.
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