Here is another post from my Puerto Vallarta compadre Gil Gevins. If you like this you should definitely check out his books (see below). And, if you travel to Puerto Vallarta, be sure to visit Lucy’s CuCu. For those of you not familiar with the airport in Puerto Vallarta, when you pass through customs you press a button. If the light is GREEN you waltz on through without further incident. If it is RED, your bags are thoroughly inspected.
A LITTLE ON THE SMALL SIDE
By Gil Gevins
Unfortunately, many folks arrive at our airport filled with fear over whether or not they will receive the dreaded Red Light. Personally, I have been the victim of this pernicious brand of trans-border terrorism on two occasions. The first of these I have already detailed in an earlier column. It involved a suitcase which wouldn’t open (forgot the combination); a suitcase which would open (inside, among other things, was a wooden toilet sea); and a box with forty pairs of Dollar Store reading glasses, which the customs man was certain I intended to sell for an enormous profit.
Needless to say, the ensuing debacle was something of an unpleasant experience. But it paled in comparison to the unparalleled depths of humiliation I would suffer upon receiving my second Red Light.
It was a slow day at the Venustiano Calzado Obregon Josefina De Ortiz International Airport. Mid-September, the bottom of low-season, and traffic was thin. I picked up my lone suitcase at the carrousel without incident and headed for the customs line. When my turn came, I pushed the button, and for the second time in my life I received the Red Light.
The two customs officials manning and womanning their posts led me politely over to a small table where, with equal civility, they asked if I was introducing any new and valuable items into their glorious country.
“No,” I was able to say truthfully, at least on this occasion.
(By the way, here’s a tip. If they want to charge you duty on something, just say, “This item is for my personal use.” That’s what I did with the wooden toilet seat, and it worked like a charm.)
“Would you please open your suitcase?” the female officer asked.
“Con mucho gusto,” I said, switching to Spanish in order to show them that I was, in fact, on their side.
Undoing the latches on my bag and flipping up the lid, I was greeted by a rather surprising sight.
The two customs officials were looking a wee bit surprised themselves. “Sir,” the woman asked, “are you absolutely certain this is your suitcase?”
“Well, it sure looks like it on the outside,” I spluttered, “but this stuff inside is…is…”
“You’re not traveling with your daughter?” the man asked hopefully, dangling from his thumb and forefinger the top of a very small two-piece bathing suit.
“No, I don’t have a daughter.”
“And you are not traveling with someone else’s daughter?” he asked, holding up for my inspection a child’s bright yellow skirt.
“Not that I know of.”
“Then these are your clothes?”
“With all due respect,” I said, “even an experienced transvestite would have difficulty getting into that thing. And,” I added in a doomed attempt to lighten the mood, “I look absolutely awful in canary yellow.”
The officials, to my dismay, were not amused.
“And that bathing suit top,” I went on indignantly, “what do you suppose I would do with that—use it for a wrist band?”
“That is what we would like to know,” the man said.
“Please don’t take this personally,” the woman said, “but we have been experiencing a lot of trouble lately with foreign perverts. That is why we would like to know what you are doing with these clothes.”
“Do I look like a pervert?” I demanded.
“Well…” the man said.
“Has it occurred to anyone,” I pointed out, “that I may have grabbed the wrong suitcase by accident?”
“Then you are claiming that you are not a pervert?”
“Right, I am not a pervert. At least not in the traditional sense.”
“What does that mean?” the man asked.
“I was joking.”
“This is not a joking matter, sir.”
“All right,” I sighed with defeat, “I am prepared to make it official: this is not my suitcase.”
“This is not your suitcase.”
“Is there an echo in here?” I demanded of the ceiling.
“There it is–that’s my bag!” a small shrill voice suddenly cried.
Turning around we saw a small family standing behind us with a tear-stained girl around seven years of age pointing an accusatory finger in my direction. Her bulky father, who looked like a steroid-wrecked over-the-hill linebacker, was holding what I was certain must be my own errant suitcase.
“See?” I told the customs officials.
“This is your suitcase?” the angry father said.
“Yes, you can see they are nearly identical. That’s how…”
“Didn’t you check the number against your baggage stub?” he demanded.
“It was an honest mistake,” I said.
“You should have checked the stub,” he insisted.
“His suitcase,” the little girl said, choking back tears, “is filled with dirty clothes. And everyone thought it was mine. I was so embarrassed!”
“Let’s see that suitcase,” the customs woman said.
The father laid it down on the counter and stood there glaring at me.
“Life is short,” I said to him. “Don’t you want to start your vacation now—while there’s still time?”
“I want to make sure this thing gets straightened out,” he said.
“It is straightened out, honey,” his wife said. “Nancy has her suitcase. Let’s go.”
“Your suitcase is filled with dirty laundry,” the customs man said.
“That is correct,” I said. “Do I have to pay duty?”
Regarding me sternly, the woman said, “What are you doing coming on vacation with a suitcase of dirty laundry?”
“I’m not coming on vacation; I live here.”
“You live here, sir?” the woman asked.
“That’s your excuse, sir?” the man said.
“It’s no excuse,” I said, attempting to control my temper. “Haven’t you ever come back from a vacation with a bunch of dirty laundry?”
“Well, have you ever come back from a vacation, period?”
“Not on a airplane, sir.”
“Well, trust me,” I said, “it happens all the time.”
“That’s not necessarily true,” the irate father interrupted. “Many people on vacation visit Laundromats.”
“Everyone was staring at me,” the little girl began to whimper. “When I opened the suitcase, it smelled like poop. It was so stinky, I almost threw up!”
Gil Gevins is the author of four hilarious books, including his latest and greatest, SLIME AND PUNISHMENT. Signed copies of all Gil’s books are available at his wife’s wonderful shop, LUCY’S CUCU CABAÑA, located at 295 Basilio Badillo, or as E-Books on Amazon.