Here’s a quick one, and it comes as a warning:
Those guys at the airport at the baggage claim for international flights? The ones dressed vaguely like ice-cream men or low-level cops, with neutral ties and short-shelved dress shirts. Beware of those guys. Be wary.
This is how they do: they come up to people. Certain people, especially. Ethic people, really. The people who may not know, exactly, precisely, how to get by in an altered reality. Strangers in a strange land. Or people who look it, anyway, and/or especially those travelling alone. Maybe you, definitely me, my mom in particular.
Then they go like this: “Hello ma’am. How are you? Hey. You got booze in those bags of yours? You got meat or fruit or animal skins or poppin’ pills or anything else? Things that would make customs tsk, tsk, tsk at you and cause you all sorts of embarrassment? Little special somethings for you or your family or your friends to enjoy from the homeland? Then come with me! With me carrying those bags of yours for you, there are no worries for you. They will not check those bags of yours if you are with me! No? You don’t have any naughties in those bags of yours? You’ve got all the receipts? All the paperwork? Crossed your “t’s” and dotted your “i’s”, hmm? You know how it works here, eh? You sure? You can never be sure. Now come with me!”
They take your bags, before you or me or my mom in particular can stop them. Exasperated, tired from a long flight, you acquiesce. There is no other word for this: acquiesce.
Then they parade you or me or my mom in particular out, past the gates, to arrivals, through the waiting crowds, past the crowds, past arrivals. Outside. Outside into the chilly night air where there are not so many people, even less paying any kind of attention. Today, customs did not intervene, but it’s plain to see that others, others accompanied by Baggage Men like him have, indeed, been stopped.
Then: “You see? No trouble at all! Here are your bags! $30 dollars, now.”
Maybe you or me or my mom in particular on this Saturday night (August 10, 2013), exasperated, tired from a long flight, lonely and disoriented, have had enough of enough all goddamn fucking ready and say NO.
Then they do like this: a step back in mild shock. A step forward in hard cajoling. A little foot stamping. An accusatory finger pointed at your heavy, heavy baggage.
“Hey, now. I helped you, now. I helped you with those bags of yours. Quick now. $30 dollars, no one the wiser, see.”
Desperate now more then ever for home, with this stranger in your face, in your space, suddenly decidedly very unhelpful if not ever kind, you or me but especially my mom just give him the last $20 dollar bill you have, just to make him go far away.
He is far from satisfied. He demands his last 10 dollars but vanishes very, very quickly back into the busy lights of the airport once the words “…speak to your supervisor” cut into that chilly night air.
But then he already has the money.
No lies. Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Be very wary.
I should probably call someone.