10 bizarre, hilarious and surreal border-crossing adventures

Written by admin on April 17, 2009 – 6:03 pm -

Some of the funniest stories I’ve heard have been from people who’ve had to deal with airport security in these post 9/11 days. The incidents only add to the adventure of going through border controls.

Perhaps the parties involved weren’t amused at that moment. But in retrospect, they make for amusing party conversation. We have to laugh, or we’d cry.

Your place or mine? A businessman landed Seoul, Korea, admittedly punchy after the trans-Pacific flight. The male passport agent extolled how handsome he was and after the perfunctory “business or personal” exchange, asked him for the name of the hotel where he was staying. Not being quick on the draw or knowing the name of another hotel in the city, the new arrival blurted out the name. Realizing he had possibly put himself at risk for an unwanted visitor, he locked every lock to his room in case he received an unsolicited knock on the door. He didn’t. But one can’t be too careful and it did give him a bit of an unsettled stay.

Do you feel lucky? In the Dallas Fort Worth airport, a woman was asked, “Do you have any firearms on your person, ma’am?” She did a double take asking him to repeat the question.  As it turns out, business travelers in DFW forget to unload their Colts from their briefcases often enough the TSA makes a practice of asking that question of everyone as they approach security. When she was unable to wipe the incredulous look off her face, the TSA guy offered a final explanation, “You’re in the Republic of Texas, ma’am.”

Victoria’s secret. Another woman recalls the time she landed in Mexico City. The immigration officer asked if he could inspect her hand luggage and naturally she agreed. He reached in and the first things he pulled out were her portable CD player, a book and her make-up kit. The next thing to emerge from the sack was a black lace bra. He was instantly mortified and all but shouted, “Oh God! I’m sorry, ma’am!”  He quickly stuffed everything back in the bag and couldn’t look her in the eye as he waved her through security.

Farm aid. When returning to Atlanta from Tuscany, a woman was honest about the fact she’d spent two weeks on a farm while there. She was sent to an area where she was nearly hosed down and had to have her shoes and feet washed. She also admitted to bringing Panforte (a regional cake) into the U.S. After having to wait for an hour, the mystery was finally solved since the representative of the Department of Agriculture thought Panforte was meat – which is a giant import no-no. In the meantime, they’d made her open every suitcase, surveyed each and every item and didn’t seem to care she had more than her fair share of leather goods. She says she’ll probably skip the honesty bit on her next trip to the Italian countryside.

Tell it to the judge. One man admits to having committed a serious mistake when he was leaving Russia because he shaved off his goatee and his passport picture showed him wearing it. When he arrived at passport control in St. Petersburg, the young woman at the counter asked for his documents and started stamping away. After noticing the discrepancy, she called her supervisor who started the inquisition. What was he doing in Russia, etc.?  The head of the passport control desk came in and started asking even more questions including what he did for a living and whether or not he was married. He answered honestly but was more than perplexed when this woman suggested the two of them get married. He politely turned her down and explained his fiancé was a Russian Federal Court Judge. Hearing that, he was immediately escorted to the terminal and was able to forego waiting in line.

What kind of terrorist are you? One woman reports that no matter where they travel, her husband is singled out by security since he has a dark and swarthy complexion and apparently has the M.O. of a terrorist (whatever that means). On one very early morning flight, he opted not to shave and was a prime target for being frisked. The TSA officer asked them to take everything out of their carry-on luggage, which they did as instructed. The new and young TSA inspector was embarrassed by some of the “dainty” items contained in her carry-on and started blushing bright red. She offered to repack the bag. But that didn’t stop the other inspectors from having a good laugh at his expense.

It coulda been me. A noteworthy story from LAX (Los Angeles). A woman was using a pay phone to contact her ride. The person next to her kept stepping on her toes until she asked her neighbor to stop backing into him. As chance would have it, it was Ray Charles who smiled and said, “Dear I am so sorry. I can’t see you. I’ll try and anchor myself more.” That was some brush with fame.

Oh, this is exciting! A public relations executive recounts the time she was escorting a group of journalists on a press trip. As everyone was in the process of having their carry-on bags x-rayed, one bag started moving and shaking. The bag is question contained a (back?) vibrator and the owner had forgotten to remove its batteries. Naturally, the trip began with a bang.

One love. A consultant who was returning from Jamaica where he was working for a large multinational bank was stopped by customs. The inspector proceeded to pick through his belongings and the search took hours. The customs agent apologized but explained that anyone who travels alone to Jamaica, on a ticket purchased 24 hours before and who was carrying very little luggage containing a laptop computer and wearing a suit was bound to be questioned and searched upon arrival in the U.S.

Banned. The last story is very personal. I was on my way to Morocco on assignment. My husband decided he would accompany me. It wasn’t until we were in the taxi approaching the Paris airport that he realized he was traveling on an expired passport. He decided to take the chance and go anyway. He cleared Paris security and customs in Morocco while I was busily pretending I didn’t know him. As we were leaving the Morocco, a customs official noticed the problem. He said he would have to exile him from the country. This was fine with my husband since we were on our way back to Paris. I didn’t breath during the entire return trip assuming he’d be arresting by French authorities. Happily, he sailed through French customs. Men of a certain age with gray hair (I guess) look less threatening. It goes without saying I have become a compulsive checker of passports. I might have been visiting my husband in jail. French jails leave a lot to be desired.

OK, here’s a start and I’m certain there are a million other such stories as the above. Post them and (possibly) we’ll have a good laugh. Or a cry.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.


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