Thinking of going fishing in Mexico? Here’s what happened to me coming back from a trip to Lake Guerrero back in the late 1990s:
As the U.S. customs agent exited his office, he pulled on thin, white Latex gloves. Another agent, this one the size of an NFL lineman, followed. Neither smiled.
“Come with us,” the one with the gloves said to me.
I looked over at my friends. We all knew what awaited me in the men’s room. I swallowed hard, pushing my heart back into my chest, and followed the two into the restroom at the Mexico-United States bordering-crossing site.
A cavity search was the last thing on my mind when we stopped at the border, on our way back from a fishing trip in eastern Mexico. Typically, U.S. citizens answer a few questions and then are waved on. No muss, no fuss.
But not this time. This agent decided to search our van and the luggage and gear of all six of its occupants.
As he tore through my toiletries bag, he found a small white pill encased in a vacuum bubble. “What’s this?” he asked, and immediately began paging through a black notebook.
Quickly he found was he was looking for, and, before I could speak, he added, “Wait right here.”
He took the pill, my passport, and my driver’s license into his office. A few minutes later, he returned with the gloves and the lineman.
Inside the bathroom, the agent held up the pill.
“I called you in here to watch me dispose of this,” he said.
Later, my friends would tell me that they heard my sigh through the door of the bathroom.
“Sure,” I said. “But would you mind telling me what the problem is?”
As a whirl of water sucked the pill away, the agent explained.
“That pill was Rhohypnol, the date rape drug,” he said. “It’s an even bigger problem than marijuana. What were you doing with it?”
I told him that a friend in Africa had given me the pill several years ago for my transatlantic flight home. He said that it was a legally prescribed sleeping aid in his country. As it turned out, I didn’t need it, and, so, I left the pill in my toiletries bag.
I crossed borders at least a dozen times with it before this agent found it. Belize, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Venezuela. Who knows what might have happened to me if my luggage had been searched by customs agents as I went into those countries.
Or what might have happened if another U.S. agent at an airport or some other border did not believe me as I was coming back.
“Well, I really should hold you,” this agent said. “But you don’t fit the profile, so I’m going to let you go on down the road.”
I went . . . with very wobbly legs.