I’ve flown enough times to have the customs questions memorized. But after three months of wandering aimlessly around Europe, I’m not entirely sure how to answer them.
Here is my imagined conversation with the local customs officer back home in Miami.
CO: What countries did you visit before arriving in the US?
GT: You mean, this week or..?
CO: How long have you been out of the country?
GT: Since May.
CO: And where were you during that time?
GT: How much time do you have?
GT: Um.. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany…. Do you mind if I just refer to my email?
CO: No phones allowed in this area.
GT: Okay.. I may be forgetting some then. Poland. Czech Republic, Croatia. Oh, and Italy.
CO: Anywhere else?
GT: No, I think that’s it. Oh wait.. France. And Slovakia! And I guess Finland, but I just flew through there.
CO: What was the purpose of your trip?
CO: Were you there on business?
GT: No, I’m unemployed.
CO: Do you have anything to declare?
GT: Yeah, it’s hot as fuck here.
CO: I mean goods. Are you bringing back more than $5000 in goods?
GT: Sir, I’ve been living out of the same duffel bag for three months. I’m pretty sure even Goodwill wouldn’t accept what’s in there. You might as well incinerate it.
CO: Is that a no?
GT: That’s a no.
CO: Are you bringing back any meats or cheeses?
GT: No. I don’t have money for that. I’m bringing back like 4 postcards.
CO: How did you finance your trip?
GT: Savings… crippling credit card debt.
CO: Do you have a job in the US?
GT: I used to teach. I was a therapist, too.
CO: Do you currently have a job in the US?
GT: No. I write, I guess.
CO: For a living? Do you get paid?
GT: Not usually, no.
GT: What do you mean “Hmm”? It’s a valid life choice!
CO: I see that you applied for a Czech visa. How long do you plan to stay in the Czech Republic?
GT: I haven’t decided yet.
CO: How long is the visa for?
GT: Actually I’m not sure. It’s either 6 months or a year. But I can renew. I don’t know, to be honest. You’d have to ask my visa lady.
CO: Do you have a job there?
GT: Not at the moment. But frankly I’m really enjoying not working so I may not even get one.
GT: But I’ll probably start teaching when I get back.
CO: What the fuck are you doing with your life?
CO: Sorry, just thinking out loud. Do you have relatives in the Czech Republic?
CO: Did you visit any relatives while you were abroad?
GT: No. Only friends.
CO: You traveled alone?
GT: Not entirely. I was with different people.
GT: Yes. Some strangers, too, but only for a little while.
CO: Anybody associated with known terrorist groups?
GT: Eh, I doubt it.
GT: No, definitely not.
CO: Are you personally affiliated with any international organizations we should be aware of?
GT: I’m in a book club. But we’re not that big a deal.
CO: Have you been anywhere you may have contracted an infectious disease?
GT: I mean, I went to a sex show, but I wasn’t that close.
GT: I don’t think so.
CO: Any contact with wildlife?
GT: Not since I left the savages of Miami. People in Europe are pretty civilized.
CO: Any actual animals? Did you go to any farms?
GT: Only farmer’s markets. No farms.
CO: Have you had any fevers, vomiting, or unexplained rashes prior to returning to the US?
GT: Only rash decisions. No rashes. I mean, where do you think I went? Zimbabwe? I told you I was in Europe.
CO: These are just standard questions, ma’am.
GT: Ugh ma’am. Do I look that beat? I haven’t slept in like 30 hours, but I’m not that old.
CO: Did you go into any bodies of water that may be carrying bacterial diseases?
GT: No, but I’m looking forward to South Beach. Hopefully my answer is still no when they ask me at customs in Prague.
CO: Were going to need to have a look at your bag.
GT: Sure, but it’s just full of dirty clothes and old shoes. You can pretty much just dump it afterwards.
CO: Did anybody help you pack your bag before returning to the US?
GT: I wish. Do you know what a pain it is to pack and unpack every two or three days?
GT: No. No one helped me pack my bag.
CO: Yeah, these clothes are pretty disgusting.
Manuel! Would you throw this bag in the dumpster?
GT: Thanks. Saved me the trouble.
CO: No problem. Welcome home.