Did you know that being caught smuggling nine lemons into New Zealand is grounds for prosecution, with a penalty of a $100,000 fine, and up to five years in prison?
Yeah. Neither did we, until Ezra got caught red handed.
First, let me dispense with all of the excuses:
- Yes, we knew that fruit and other things cannot be brought in, that’s why we mailed everything made of plant matter, except our cotton t-shirts, home from Indonesia.
- Yes, he knew better. We’d talked about it countless times. We can debate whether his brain was switched on, but why bother.
- No, this is not our first rodeo, no matter how much it looked like it yesterday afternoon.
It may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t do well with sleep deprivation. 2 hrs of fitful rest on the red eye between Perth and Sydney was not enough to fortify me for the flight in the “chicken bus” section of Jet Star JQ 203 from Sydney to Auckland.
It was the loudest flight we have ever been on. Bar none.
It wasn’t the noise that made me crazy, actually, it was the man in front of me who coughed, hacked, drew phlegm up from the soles of his feet only to gargle it for a moment and then loudly snort it back up his nose and down his throat. I could see him picking his nose in the reflection of his window. I know that these things are not necessarily bad manners in his culture, but I have an over sensitivity to disgustingness and four hours of slurping and hacking and spitting bodily fluids was really more than my nerves could take.
I fairly bolted off of the plane. Tony took one look at me and knew better than to try to hit the ATM before customs because I *had to* get away from those people before I got stuck behind the man in the border crossing line and ran the risk of committing manslaughter right there in front of international law enforcement.
It’s impossible not to see the giant posters of apples with a $400 price tag that line the entrance hall at the Auckland airport. I even pointed it out to the kids and said, “See, this is why we ate our last apples on the flight! No fruit or food comes into New Zealand.” We pointed out the amnesty bins where contraband may be deposited. We discussed (again) the importance of following those rules, even declaring packaged foods, right down to spices, when you enter a foreign country. Theoretically, Ezra was conscious for this discussion; he was breathing, and walking.
It’s at the moment that you’re almost ready to speak the words out loud and congratulate yourself on a smooth passage when all hell breaks loose. I should know this.
- Customs, no problem.
- Baggage collection, no problem.
- No random searches, in spite of the mysterious markings the agent placed on our declarations cards.
- Home free… almost.
- X-ray scanners and scent dogs, no worries, these are old hat.
Naturally, they found the lemons. Of course they found the lemons, there were NINE of them, after all.
The inspection agent looked like he’d been sucking on the tenth just before we arrived when he fixed me with a most disapproving eye.
I gave Ezra my WHATINGODSNAMEWEREYOUTHINKING face. It’s unmistakable.
He looked back at me with his signature, “What?” look, as if I’d clearly lost my mind.
“DUDE! What the heck is in your bag???!!!” I asked, in a tone not endorsed by Parent’s Magazine.
“Lemons,” Ez responded, still looking at me like I was mentally ill (I was approaching it, I’ll admit!)
“DID I NOT SAY FIFTEEN TIMES THAT THERE IS NO FRUIT OR FOOD TO COME INTO THIS COUNTRY???!!!!”
His brow crinkled a little, “But… these aren’t apples, they aren’t for eating… I was going to make lemonade…”
Of course he was going to make lemonade. He and his buddy Tin Tin had been picking lemons like mad men and juicing to beat the band while we were in Perth. They made fifteen bucks in the space of about three hours; due more to their cute factor than the quality of their product, I assure you.
Ez had, evidently, decided to take their self named, “Ezo lemonade” on tour. To New Zealand. Of all places. Dear God.
The lemon sucking agent carefully bagged the offending citrus with rubber gloves, sealed it off and handed it, like a bag full of excrement to another agent. “He will decide what to do about this,” he sniffed, pointing in the direction of the quarantine desk.
What followed was a tense few minutes in which I very nearly committed murder for the second time in 12 hours. The only thing more annoying than a dude with a chest full of mucus and a complete lack of consideration of others is a child who has just committed a felony in front of god and everybody and who is still trying to work out why all of the adults in the room are popping a vein in their foreheads.
Thank the stars for the fraternity of parents, and a quarantine agent who clearly was one.
He fixed one big, black eye on Ezra, asked a few questions and reduced the boy to tears while I muttered under my breath things like:
- “I told you no fruit! Did I NOT tell you no fruit?”
- “What part of this lemon did you not think was FOOD?”
- “What in the heck were you thinking?!”
- “WHY IN GOD’S NAME…”
- “You know what, nevermind, don’t answer that. Why is not a productive question.”
- “Do you know how much money $100,000 is?”
The quarantine agent was somewhat calmer. He gave Ez a pamphlet on the import rules for New Zealand and requested that he study it. They had a little chat about citrus scale and the farming industry in this country. Then the branched off into the closed eco-system of island life, and the farm lobby. Ez was clearly penitent. I was just seriously annoyed.
The agent smiled at us. “Clearly, this is just a case of being a boy and not fully understanding the implications of his actions,” he soothed me, in his lilting Indian-Kiwi blend. It was all I could do to resist the urge to wai deeply in Thai fashion and kiss him on both cheeks in French fashion.
I think it is safe to say that Ezra’s homeschool lesson in import & agriculture is one that will stick with him. I’m just hoping the therapy isn’t *too* expensive.