If you haven’t, read The (First) MIA Incident.
That was when I was selected for extra screening while entering the country at the Miami airport. A tiny amount of contraband was NOT found, which I owe to Jesus.
And me being stupid, I wrote an article all about it with pictures. I still had hoop dreams of being a famous, sensational writer. And famous, sensational writers obviously write sensational stories like that. From that article:
Given I’m on the list, I’m prepared to be manually searched every time now. I need to leave at least three hours for my MIA layovers so I don’t have to stay overnight in Miami. More importantly, I’m never bringing anything suspect, not even a generic Tylenol or pirated DVD.
My wife and I entered the country one year after publishing that article. I had nothing and I scheduled a long layover so we wouldn’t miss our next flight. We weren’t examined.
Another year went by. My son was born in the U.S. We brought him to meet his Peruvian grandparents in February. We returned to the United States, again via Miami, and this time we were pulled from the normal line for extra screening. No surprise really. I had prepared the wife for this.
We were in a large screening room with our suitcases in front of a stainless steel table. Behind the table was an X-ray machine. Several CBP officers stood behind the table. One led the effort, who I will call ‘Miguel’ (all MIA airport staff have Latin names).
Miguel asked if I had a website. I told him I have a few websites, but the one he’s probably referring to is Expat Chronicles. I produced a business card with all my website URLs, including this website. It’s me, no lie. “I assume that’s why we were here?”
Miguel: “I don’t have to tell you anything.”
That was the start of our slightly contentious conversation.
I saw him go behind a desk off to the side and get on the computer. I watched his eyes quickly scan a webpage while another officer started into our luggage.
He came back and asked if I had any drugs on me.
Me: “I don’t even have anything in my urine.”
Miguel came right back: “It hasn’t been that long.”
I must concede that Miguel won every one of these exchanges. He didn’t give me an inch in the verbal sparring.
The search concluded and I saw an officer putting on rubber gloves.
At this point I panicked. My big fear was that they were going to stick a finger in my ass.
Miguel told me to come with him and his partner into a side room. He told me to look under the one stainless steel bench, a table, and everything else to confirm no drugs were in the room before I got there.
The implication here is that they might plant something on me. A lot of guys will surely argue in the comments, but in this situation I’m an optimist. I had zero concern that these two CBP officers were going to plant something on me. No, my main concern was that one of them was going to put his finger in my ass.
I confirmed the room was clean and Miguel told me to put my hands on the wall and spread my legs.
I offered, “You can X-ray me if you want.”
Miguel: “Man, I wish I could X-ray you.”
He said this as he patted the inside of my thighs, trying to shake loose a bag of drugs that didn’t exist. I don’t recall any obtrusive contact. I was made to spread out a little more, bend over, and cough. But I never took off my pants.
It was over as soon as it started. Miguel almost took a friendly note, “So how nervous were you when you were getting searched?” Almost friendly. He didn’t drop his authoritarian tone.
I said not everything I write is necessarily true. Again, he immediately had the comeback, “You had pictures on there, bro!”
Miguel asked if Iwas going to write this story up, mimicking a typing gesture with his hands. I replied that if I do, it would be as a warning to other gringos not to try and sneak a pinch of candy. It’s not worth it. Just pay the domestic price. He replied that I wasn’t trying to get in with kilos, but I could’ve gotten ten years for that.
So I dedicate this to Miguel, who never lost the upper hand in the verbal sparring. Never let one of my cracks go unanswered. And to the gringos contemplating a pinch … DON’T DO IT.
My return-flight policy remains the same:
- Not even a generic Tylenol. Not even a PIRATED DVD.
- At least three hours for the layover so I don’t miss the connecting flight. Because as much as I love staying in the Miami airport area for a night before proceeding home, I don’t need to lose the time and money.
I wasn’t going to publish this story. I’m doing it now to promote the Kickstarter campaign to fund This Mick’s Life: Addiction and Underworld from Ireland to Colombia. It’s a memoir on my friend, The Mick.