What i need is a good defense
‘Cause I’m feeling like a criminal
— the prophet fiona apple
My life is flashing before my eyes. It’s one of those budget kung-fu movies, roughly translated into English where the dialogue in no way matches the movements of the mouths. This will not end well.
But I should probably begin from the beginning.
I was born on a farm in West Texas.
And then last week, Mo got a call from our friend back east. He wanted us to pick us some boxes from an intermediary on the university campus. He said they were books. Over the phone, you can’t see air quotes. I had a feeling we were picking up “books.” All we had to do was pick them up, take them to the post office and mail them. And so we did.
There were TEN BOXES. We dutifully loaded them in the back of the car yesterday. Then we went to the post office, toted them in, and that was that. “Books,” he said. I was skeptical, but we made it through without arrrest, so whatever.
I’m sitting today at the border checkpoint in Texas while driving across the state. The line stretches forever, probably a result of the Las Vegas shooting. I have a lot of time to think. So I do. I think about the time I ran past here in June wondering if I would get arrested. I think about how that would look in a kung fu movie with poorly translated English dialogue. I think about how cartoon characters don’t wear pants but then insist on wearing swimsuits. I think about how this is the checkpoint where Willie Nelson AND Fiona Apple were busted for marijuana.
And then I think about the 10 boxes we had in the back of the car yesterday.
What if? What if they really WEREN’T books at all? What if our friend, not realizing we wouldn’t see his air quotes over the phone, was letting us know we were involved in an international smuggling ring? These sorts of things tend to happen in kung fu movies a lot. What if we had been toting contraband in the car? Would there be any residual odor lingering in the car the next day?
Relax, I told myself. I’ve been through this checkpoint a million times. Howdy do, yes I’m a citizen, on my way.
I have been searched here once before. I found out that if you drive a rental car with no luggage, you’re a suspect. But it went fine other than a scowl at my suspicious smelling running shoes. And once I helped a friend smuggle a pack of rabid gerbils through. So I’m ready for this. No problem.
And then I see him.
Up ahead is a German shepherd. He and his handler are circling each car as they pull up. He seems pretty happy. Tongue hanging out, prancing, having a great time.
Car after car, we inch forward. Circle, sniff, prance. Circle, sniff, prance. It seems like a silly formality. Finally, I pull up to the front of the line. Circle, sniff, prance. And then, all hell breaks loose.
The dog goes berserk. He’s barking like my high school gym teacher when I was on the pommel horse. Jumping up and down in a frenzy. Paws on the trunk, leaping some more.
He runs to the side and barks. He runs to the other side and barks some more. He jumps up and down like backup singers at a Justin BeeBee concert. So THIS is what a drug bust looks like.
Three guys come running out from inside the little office. They point to the inspection area to the right. “Pull over there and get out of the car,” one orders. Screwed.
Luckily, it’s the car in front of me. A wimpy little green (guy with a sense of humor?) compact car. EXACTLY the kind of vehicle I would choose for drug smuggling. He slowly pulls over to the right. He’s going down.
The dog is still going insane. The border patrol guy is trying to hold him back, but McGruff insists on following the car, pulling the guy behind him by his leash. The entire crew walks ominoiusly toward the car. I can’t see the driver, so I don’t know if it was Willie Nelson or not.
As the commotion settles, I pull forward into the space previously occupied by the green car, which likely was full of “books.” The guy looks in and smiles. “U.S. citizen?” He asks me? “Yes,” I reply, not in a Chinese subtitle. No dog. No inspection. No worries. “Have a nice day,” he tells me. I drive through.
Interstate 10 stretches out forever. The sun shines. Tom Petty sings “Kung Fu Fighting” as we head into the next six hours of the drive. The end titles run in Chinese. Life is good.
I should really take up gerbil smuggling again …