Every once in a while, when the specter of an outside temperature in the single digits makes us question our sanity we take ourselves to Cozumel, Mexico for a week of diving.
Many things about Mexico are appealing. The people are open and friendly. They don’t laugh too hard at my Spanish. Our hotel is really nice. The ocean is warm and inviting and teeming with fish. I am given to understand, however, that Mexican jails are not a day in the park. They are a day at the jail. The bad jail.
So you can grasp my concern when a drug-sniffing dog at the Mexican airport showed great interest in my carry-on bag.
Let us back up for a moment to a time prior to departure. After clearing security (oh, the humanity), I purchased a large load of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the form of a ham and cheese bagel. Because this particular food item had both the density and nutritional value of a boat anchor, I split it into two pieces. I ate half of it between Dayton and Charlotte and the other half between Charlotte and Cozumel. As a good, upstanding citizen I did not leave my trash behind in the airplane. I put the empty balled-up bagel wrapper in my carry-on. In hindsight, I should have just been a slob and left it in the seat back.
Given what is going on with politics in this county, it can’t be too long before the fine folks in Mexico build a wall to keep us out. In the interim, the immigration people took a cursory look at my passport, applied a great number of official-looking stamps with a great deal of force, and handed me a piece of paper without which, it seems, I would not be allowed to exit the country.
Once through that hurdle, I went to claim my luggage. It was on the way there that a young woman with a sandy-colored dog on a leash indicated I should offer my carry-on bag for the dog to sniff.
I do not know which specific drug this dog was trained to detect but he focused on that suitcase as though the entire Mexican cartel had set up housekeeping in there.
With many gestures and virtually no Spanish, I explained that while my luggage did not contain actual, you know, cocaine, it did hold something far more desirable to a dog — the irresistible aroma of processed cheese and smoked pork.
I managed to convey the fact that the sandwich itself was gone and only the wrapper remained. Senorita Dog Handler was unmoved by this information. She, in very clear English and not actually using the words “you stupid gringa,” explained that once the dog alerted, a cascade of actions was set into motion and part of the cascade entailed a search.
Thankfully, the search did not include a small windowless room or latex gloves. It did, however, feature an untidy unloading of the contents of this bag onto a card table while the other passengers from my flight filed past with looks ranging from disapproval to relief. I was treated to several varieties of the disparaging look known colloquially as the stink eye … guilty of drug smuggling until proved innocent.
Mostly what I was guilty of was purchasing and then ingesting airport food. Mostly what I was innocent of was littering. I wonder if the dog would give me credit for that.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.
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