Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I’ve known for a long time that certain careers are not open to me, given how terrible of a liar I am. At the top of this list is “smuggler.”
And yet, here I am, crossing into California from Nevada on Interstate 25 with contraband on board. The California Agricultural Checkpoint is up ahead – and I’ve got bananas. A pair of them. They’ll try to take them from me, I know they will. They’ve done it before, about a year ago. I pulled up to this exact same checkpoint, and the guy asked me if I had any fruits, vegetables or plants in the vehicle with me.
Just this apple, I said.
“Let’s see it.”
I handed him the small Granny Smith, making sure the “organic” sticker was facing him. He slowly rotated it, examining it as if it were the Hope Diamond. The Organic Hope Diamond.
“I’m going to need to hang on to this,” he finally said. “You have a nice day.”
I drove away, apple-less, and I could see Mr. Fruit Security in my rear view, polishing his newly acquired midmorning snack on his shirt. I bet the people who work there don’t even bother to pack food for the day. You do not want to go through this checkpoint just before lunchtime.
“Any fruits, vegetables, plants or turkey sandwiches with mayo on multigrain bread with salt-and-vinegar potato chips in the vehicle? Oh, and a pickle?”
So, giving up my bananas will feel like handing over my lunch money to bullies. As I get closer to the checkpoint, I can see that today’s bully is a woman about my age, substantially smaller than I am, and unarmed. What’s she gonna do? Give me a swirlie?
No way. I can totally take this lady. Or, at the very least, lie to her.
I don’t begrudge California for trying to keep weird fruit-borne insects out of their state, but I’ll have eaten these bananas by the time I get to Bakersfield, so what’s the big deal? Sure, I could eat both of them right now, shove them in my mouth so that I’m only able to answer this lady’s questions by shaking my chipmunk-like face at her. Actually, that was my initial plan. But I started with four bananas, and I ate two of them quickly when I first saw the inspection station on the horizon. But four bananas in quick succession is not a good idea for someone driving a van through a rest-stop barren desert.
I could tape them to my chest, like in “Midnight Express.” The duct tape is within reach. It’s not like they’re gonna strip-search me, are they? Are they? And if they do, how do I explain having bananas taped to my chest?
Exotic dancer. I’m on my way to a “food pyramid”-themed bachelorette party. I’m representing the “fruits and nuts” layer.
Yeah, I could say that. If I were a better liar.
This is so pathetic. I can’t even lie to the Vegetable Police.
Or can I? Maybe this is my big moment to get over my falsehood phobia. I mean, look at the great strides I’ve made in my quest to avoid and abandon awkward alliteration. This is bald-faced-liar baby steps. I can do this.
I’m up next – the Volvo in front of me is pulling away, having handed the lady something I couldn’t make out from back here. Focus. When she says “Whaddya got in the car?” and I DON’T say “bananas,” I’m officially an outlaw – pretty much Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and Carmen Miranda rolled into one.
“Good morning, do you …”
“BANANAS!” I say, thrusting them out the window to her.
“Oh, bananas are fine, you can keep those,” the Veggie Cop lady says. “Have a nice day.”
(Next time – Barry fails to NOT say “zucchini,” even though nobody’s asking him a question.)
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