IN TRANSIT | Cape Town, South Africa >> Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, GA
Passport control agent when we arrived back from South Africa: “Are you carrying any alcohol with you?”
Neal [laughing under his breath]: “Yes.”
Passport guy: “What kind and how much?”
Neal [looks at me with a boyish grin]: “Wine. 30 bottles.”
Passport guy [looks at us and then down at his little reference chart]: “Uhhhhh…I think that’s more than you’re allowed.”
Me [attempting humor after 21 hours on planes]: “It was a good year for wine in the Cape.”
Passport guy: “Uhhhh…I’m sorry. You guys look like honest folks, but I’m going to have to escort you to a customs officer. Please grab your bags and come with me.”
He walks us to the ‘you’ve-done-something-wrong’ area of customs and hands our passports to an agent.
Neal and I take the 30 minutes of wait time to discuss how much duty is too much to pay for our vinicultural spoils, and which wines we would be okay to leave for the customs agents at Detroit airport to drink on their dinner break.
Customs officer: “NEAL! Bring your bags.” [we walk over to a little desk] “On behalf of the US government, I would like to apologize for wasting your time today. The passport agent who sent you here is new.
The duty on excess wine is so low that it costs us more to process the paperwork than we collect in tax. You can bring in as much wine as you like.”
Neal: “The land of the free, right sir?”
Passport guy: “Damn straight. By the way, your beard is a thing to behold.”