Recently, my brother-in-law, his two sons (ages 6 and 16) and I returned from a vacation in Canada. At the border, we were directed to answer questions regarding whether we were carrying guns, knives, items purchased abroad, agricultural products, drugs … the usual suspects. We responded “No” to all questions. After agents searched the vehicle, we were directed to the desk of a stern-faced agent. The agent threw down something in a small sandwich bag and stated with a menacing tone, “What is this?”
“This” was three slices of sandwich meat. Apparently, my wife packed leftover slices in our cooler after making sandwiches. Many people may believe, as I did, that the prohibition on transporting agricultural products across international borders applies only to larger quantities of raw, unprocessed meats, fruits and vegetables obtained abroad. Wrong. The customs agents view any food product as a potential violation. Ironically, the meat was purchased from Costco in Issaquah.
But no amount of explaining or pleading was going to save us. The Department of Homeland Security agent made it clear that to prevent bad things from happening to us, we had to sign an acknowledgment, waive our right to a hearing and pay a $300 fine.
Words of advice? To all those would-be sandwich meat smugglers: don’t. To the Department of Home-land Security: If you want to convince people you are doing this for our own good, make sure you remove all the offending products. Leaving the raw bacon in our coolers after taking $300 is not convincing.
Did I learn a valuable lesson? I certainly did. Our next vacation will be in our backyard.