Excerpt from The Rum Diary: Fear, Loathing and Drunk in a Graveyard (2013)
The trip started out innocently enough. We were going to Austin, TX to take in a horror movie festival; nothing untoward or unusual, at least in my circle of friends. The thought of trying to leave the United States with anything other than some movies and loads of t-shirts filling my bags hadn’t crossed my mind.
That quickly changed once I was on the ground in Austin. Once I discovered how easily I could acquire “the product” that was so difficult to come by in my native country I knew that plans had changed. I would be bringing back to the great white north what the US had in such vast quantity. I would be a hero to some and misunderstood by many, but it didn’t matter. I needed this.
I got my hands on as much of “the product” as I could fit in my luggage in the days before the festival started and put it in my hotel room, pushing the inevitable trip home to the back of my mind. I was tempted more than a few times to dip into my stash, just for a sample, but I knew that it would taste that much sweeter if I restrained myself until I was back in Canada. I let myself sink into the festival and tried to forget about what was in my hotel room. This worked for the most part and the festival and the wildness it entailed distracted me from the return trip until the night before, when it came time to pack our bags. It was then the reality of the situation hit me. I needed to cross an international border the next morning and sneak “the product” past some of the most intense security personnel in the world.
I did my best to secure and secret the product away in my luggage, but knew anything but a cursory glance by a trained eye would reveal what I had in my bags. Despite this, I needed to try.
Everything depended on this working. The payoff would outweigh the risk tenfold once I was back on Canadian soil. With “the product” now hidden safely in my luggage, I laid out my clothes for the next day in an attempt to calm myself through routine and to hopefully circumvent any unneeded stress for the trip the following morning. Lord knows my luggage would bring me enough stress, no need to add to that.
I had a fitful sleep that night, a combination of travel nerves and the payload in my hard-shell luggage sitting at the foot of the hotel bed. I ran through scenarios in my head as I was falling asleep, imagining what I would say if confronted. If I had to explain myself to a TSA agent things would go south fast. Vignettes of being led into a private room somewhere deep in the bowels of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport played across the screen of my minds eye, cementing the fact that this needed to go smoothly. There was really no other option.
Explaining why I was doing this wasn’t possible; they just wouldn’t understand my position. Why should they? They couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to come from where I come from and to need for things so badly. Sympathy isn’t part of their vocabulary.
The morning came too early and my turbulent sleep brought little in the way of rest. But like it or not today was the end of our trip and the beginning of the journey home. We called a cab to the hotel as we checked out and I loaded the luggage into the trunk, the whole while trying to not think about what it contained. “Just forget about it,” I told myself. “You have nothing to worry about if you just act normal.”
The ride to the airport was quick, and before I knew it we we’re at the luggage drop off. I pulled out the cab fare and handed to the driver, our eyes meeting for a second during the transaction. The look in his eyes told me he had seen my kind before, had an inkling of what I was going to do. Dismissing it, I got out of the cab and grabbed my luggage from the trunk, putting it on the sidewalk as I prepared for one of the most stressful parts of this trip. I rolled the luggage along the sidewalk up to the drop off point, the small plastic wheels clacking as they rolled over the cracks in the concrete.
My palms slick with sweat, I handed our bags over to the staff and watched as they were loaded onto the conveyor belt that led into the airport where all the bags would be sorted and inspected. This was it; no turning back now. In just a few minutes I would be eye to eye with the security agents. If they found what I had in my bags this is where the confrontation would happen. I didn’t know how this would end but I could only hope for the best. I took a deep breath and stepped through the glass doors into the airport.
I approached the blue shirted security agents, stumbled over a quick greeting and stepped into the x-ray machine. They scanned me, found nothing on my person and rushed me ahead much faster than expected. “Was I really through security?” I thought. “Is it going to be this easy?” I waited for my girlfriend to finish her security inspection and once she joined me we headed into the airport to find our gate. So far, so good. I wasn’t in the clear yet though; not until I was back in Vancouver and had my luggage in hand.
The next few hours passed by slower than I thought was possible but eventually we boarded the plane and were off, back to Canada. I took a Gravol® and slept for most of the plane ride, hoping that when we landed I wouldn’t be faced with questions from stern faced security agents holding my luggage but mentally readying myself for that eventuality.
Thankfully we landed and located our luggage on the carousal without incident. With bags in hand, I walked by security agent after security agent as I looked for the exit and safety hidden somewhere amongst the luggage carousals and food vendors. Finally, there they were. The doors marked “Exit” lay in front of us, promising safety.
Unconsciously my stride lengthened and I sped up, and my girlfriend trying to keep up we walked through those automatic doors, out of the fluorescent harshness of the airport and into perpetually overcast Vancouver. It had worked! I had done it.