Friday, June 27, 2014

Customs and Smoked Cheese

During the last two days of my trip to Eastern Europe, I walked around gnawing on 2 huge blocks of smoked cheese that I'd bought fom a roadside stand.  I kept them stored in my purse for easy access. 

I’m not going to say I regret it because I’ll never say that.  But in hindsight, it might not have been the brightest idea I’d ever had, because it took no fewer than 3 days for my bodily functions to get back to normal (…meaning I didn’t shit for 3 days, in case you were wondering). 

The thing is, you guys…I’d do it all over again.  That smoked cheese was so goddamned good that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

In fact, I only grudgingly gave the cheese up when my husband and I hit customs heading back into the United States.  I had informed my husband that I was going to risk arrest by shoving the cheese into my checked suitcase and not claiming it on the customs report.  My really good plan was to cross my fingers and walk really fast while praying to God—whom I believe in the depths of my soul is a smoked-cheese loving God—that I wouldn’t get caught.

And I would’ve been fine if it hadn’t been for my stupid cousin, who had the exact same plan as I did, only with packaged sausage very poorly hidden under a few t-shirts in her checked baggage.

They were making us re-check our luggage during the layover because—can you believe it—those bastards thought we might be trying to sneak shit back into the country.  And so when my cousin grabbed her suitcase from the carousel, only to be immediately accosted by a sausage-sniffing dog and his uniformed master, I started laughing hysterically at her while clutching my own bag, filled with illegal smoked cheese, to my side. 

I felt relief course through my veins since the dog was busy with my cousin’s sausage (That’s what she said) and I didn’t see any other bag-sniffing dogs around.  I nudged the hubs and mouthed, “Hurry up so we can get these onto the other belt while they’re checking Jenny’s,” and put a spring in my step to get there faster.

But even my lanky grasshopper legs couldn’t outrun the dog, who was in quite a close proximity to my cheese thanks to my asshole cousin.  Suddenly, I felt a tug.  I looked down to see that the bastard dog that had stolen my cousin’s sausage was now barking at my suitcase.

My husband saw the terror in my eyes, but he recognized immediately that it was not there due to the dog, the scary-looking official, or the prospect of spending the rest of my life in jail over a couple of blocks of cheese.

No, the nervous pit stains now spreading under my arms were from fear of losing my smoked cheese.

I had watched my older sister play this game a million times; even though I knew I was in the wrong, I was going to play the part of the mistreated, defensive bitch.  It always helped her get her way, so why not me?

“Hey!” I yelled, shooting an accusatory look at the official who held the leash.  “Could you please get your DOG off of my bag?  In fact, shouldn’t you check that mutt?  Is he even allowed on the flight?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband roll his eyes and step off to the side to wait for me.

“Ma’am,” the official said, raising her eyebrows in warning.  “This dog works for customs, and he smells something in your bag.  I need to check the contents.”

“Why, I never…” I tried, glaring at the dog for a few moments.

“Ma’am, open the bag, please,” the official said, stepping toward the bag.

“Do you have a badge or something?” I replied, trying to sidestep her.

She flipped the badge, now pissed, and took another step toward my bag and my precious cheese.  “Open the bag, MA’AM, or I will have to do it for you.”

“FINE,” I said, giving a huge, annoyed sigh as I dropped my suitcase onto the ground and bent down.  “Fine.  That won’t be necessary.” 

I began to unzip it very slowly, all the while wishing I had gone with my first instinct when I was younger and become a magician instead of a stupid teacher.  That way, I would’ve known exactly how to get the cheese from my stash into my pocket without the officer or the dog ever noticing.

But alas, as soon as the bag had been unzipped half an inch, that hungry-ass dog started jumping up and down as if he’d just found the motherlode of Beggin’ Strips.

And then suddenly, somehow his jowls were in my suitcase and I watched in horror as he started to pull out one of my blocks of cheese.  I counted that one as a loss, but before I could even think about what I was doing, I grabbed the other and shoved it into my mouth, hungrily biting off a few hunks before the dog lunged at me.

“What is your PROBLEM?!” I managed to say through my mouthful of cheese.  “It is NOT MY FAULT that you ended up as a sausage-and-cheese sniffing dog that has been put to work for little or no money and that you haven’t accepted your lot in life.  I mean, seriously, what do you have to gain by taking away people’s precious food souvenirs?”

Suddenly, I felt a palm on my forehead as the customs official separated me from the dog.  “MA’AM!” she yelled.  “That is ENOUGH!”

I don’t know if it was her serious tone, the crowd that had started to gather, or that she started talking all this jazz about detaining me and I suddenly realized that I kind of wanted to see my kids--but whatever the case, I realized I was fighting a losing battle, and I gave up.

I stood, hands on my hips, the cheese block still clutched tightly in one of them, gathering my breath.  After a moment, I looked up and met the dog’s eyes.  I swore I saw a little pity in them as he recognized the defeat in mine, and maybe that’s what did it.

I tossed him the other cheese block.

I sighed, blowing a strand of loose hair from my ponytail out of my eyes.  I looked down and realized that all I had left of my precious cheese was the brown paper that had been used to wrap it when I bought it. 

It was limp with grease and totally useless to me, but still, I couldn’t part with it.  I tossed it into my luggage, zipped it up, and looked for my husband.

I spotted him several yards away, leaning on his bag, shaking his head and rolling his eyes as he took in the whole scene.  I couldn’t help but think he’d had plenty of scenarios in which to practice that stance in the 12 years since we’d met, and to be perfectly honest, his whole smug look was getting a little annoying.

“Alright, then,” I called over to him as I smoothed my skirt. “Ready to go!”

He shrugged and took his time gathering his bag, carry-on, and jacket. By the time he’d met back up with me, I was somewhat over losing my cheese.

Two flights, one layover, and several hours of driving later, we returned home, where I was finally able to unpack my bag.  I opened it and was met with a beautiful whiff of smoked cheese, which can be attributed to the brown paper, which had served as a sort of air freshener for my bag.

I don’t think we’ll ever get the smell out.  My husband swears he’ll never use the suitcase again, which works out well for me, because there’s only one thing I like better than the smell of smoked cheese—

—and that’s eating smoked cheese.  Which, on my next trip out of country, I’ll make sure I do all of BEFORE I hit the customs line.


  1. This is so funny, Shay. I can totally see you doing this! I'm a cheese freak to, and I would have done the same thing. Smoked Gouda is worth fighting over.

    1. It's an exaggerated version of what actually happened, but still based on the truth. I do love my cheese!! Haha

  2. I would also break the law for cheese. In fact, I think people who smuggle cheese across borders are lactose-y heroes.