My sketchy travel mode had to catch up with me at some point, so I guess I'm glad it happened here instead of, say, Zambia. At any rate, I came into the Auckland airport kinda loopy as I finally got SOMEONE to take those bunk biz-class upgrade vouchers I bought off that swine lawyer Klaus back in Mallorca. I was the only soul in the front cabin on the flight out from Sydney and they were training a new FA, so maybe that's why they let me up front. I am not one to let anyone down when it comes to a training run, so I had the newbie stew rustle me up a vast array of bevvys, entrees, etc. and was feeling no pain when I was the first passenger to step off into the deserted airport customs corridor.
These antiseptic hallways, as you know, do not really inspire much of a welcome to the traveler -- in fact, I think they're meant to scare the piss out of drug smugglers. But my luck with customs has been pretty solid all along this trip, with the immigration folks actually yanking me from line in a couple instances to get me OUT of the way because I'm traveling so light and obviously look like an airline executive coming off a bender or an Interpol agent.
Well, they must've been doing some training of their own in the Auckland immigration department, because I got grilled pretty solid at the first checkpoint, with the two ladies leafing through all the various pretty stamps in my passport.
"And that's all your luggage?" one of them asked, gesturing to my backpack and small duffle bag.
I told them I travel light.
The ladies huddled and then scribbled some numbers on my customs form. One of them then led me down a separate corridor with red lines painted on the linoleum floor, a la Snake Plissken going to see the Warden in Escape From New York. As I said, I was a little sauced, so all this seemed like good fun. I think I recall thinking the same thing when I got dropped in the hoosegow back in Denver after that Jesus Lizard show when I made the mistake of asking the cops why they were thugging the punks outside the show. I guess I'm not a quick learner on this count.
Next stop was a wide, fluorescent-lit hall with a bunch of stainless steel tables and flimsy plastic chairs. I saw a couple Arab dudes getting the usual hassles and a Kiwi couple getting rousted for not declaring a whole suitcase of Marlboro Lights. Another agent then put me through some questions regarding my light bags and weird itinerary and also the fact that I had flown business class, but without any pre-arranged place to stay for the night. I pronounced that I was on my way south to Wellington to see the U.S. Ambassador (which is true, but that's a story for later) and that I never made any plans ahead of time because that was contrary to my style. The lady shrugged that one off and then proceeded to strew my few belongings across the metal table. This was still kind of fun, seeing that I had guzzled all my illegal cough medicine with the youths in Rockhampton, Australia. And there was also this very "Sooper Troopers" vibe in that grim room, the customs guys giving each other shit about their ties and then showing each other the contraband they had pulled off previous travelers. They were especially fascinated with a telescoping self-defense baton that they sprung and then couldn't figure out how to close.
The customs lady gave me some more grief about my light bags and business-class ticket and then took my passport into the office to "debrief" her boss. Now this was getting a little silly, especially since I knew my cut-rate rental car agency was probably going to close before I got the hell out of there. I also had to piss, but thought asking for the restroom would only arouse more suspicion. Knowing that there were twenty cameras on me, I did my best to kick back and act cool. But I hate to say that I felt the first trickles of sweat running down the inside of my arm. What if those Rocky punks had loaded me up like a mule with illegal vegemite mix?
I knew I was going to a new level when the next customs agent was a man and had a bunch of papers and a pen. He explained to me that pursuant to Section 149B(1) of the Customs and Excise Act (1996) I was going to be subjected to a body search. It's always nice to think you'll keep it real when they start dropping the "You Have the Right To..." bullshit on you, but I folded like a cheap tent and signed away my right to an attorney. If I hadn't needed to pee so bad, I might have held out and had them call you to roust the fleet of high-priced attorneys I know you have on standby for me, but throwing my rights away seemed like the quickest path to the men's room. I'm sure there are some dudes in Gitmo who thought the same thing.
They took me to a room, all right. It was me and three customs agents, two of them little and Asian and the third big and Kiwi. They said some more legal-sounding shit to me and then started asking me to take my clothes off, one item at a time.
"So how's business class?" the big white guy asked as I handed my him my Level 7 stanky socks.
I told him the drinks were free, which was a big bonus.
The two little guys standing by the door exchanged a chuckle, but the big guy gave them a look to shut up and act intimidating.
I got down to my skivvies and then the white guy went into some "Have you ever used drugs?" line of questioning, thinking perhaps that he might get me to crack and admit I had eight kilos of Panda smack molded into the waistband of my boxers.
I gave him the no, sir, drugs are for losers line.
He shrugged and told me to drop my boxers. The little guys snickered again and the guard told them to investigate my socks one more time.
I then had to do the whole lift my nut-sack, put my hands on the wall and spread-em routine, which made me marvel at how I've been on this trip now for over three months and the only time I've been felt up or seen naked is by guys.
It was all over pretty fast when they saw I didn't have a brick of meth clenched between my ass cheeks and as I got dressed we all got into a nice discussion about my travels and more questions about if ALL the drinks were free in business class. Hell, we even shook hands when the guys snapped off their rubber gloves and led me back to the main hall to start re-packing my luggage.
So three hours later, I was out of customs and trying in vain to get someone from my rental car agency on the horn. I gave that noise up after a half hour and now here I am at the Kiwi Lodge, wondering how it took so long for this sort of thing to happen. But keep those lawyers at Defcon 3, I still have a few miles to go.-- Tony Perez-Giese