Will Need To Sweet-Talk Your Way Out Of This One

, , , , , , | Working | November 23, 2017

(It is about 30 years ago, when I am starting out as a food chemist, and I have been invited to give a talk to the FDA in Washington, DC. After the talk, I am shown around one of the labs where they are doing some toxicity testing on aspartame, a synthetic sweetener about 200 times sweeter than sucrose. I have never heard of it, so I ask to take some back to my lab to analyze. They give it to me in a little unmarked plastic bag. After I land in Toronto, I have to go through Canadian customs.)

Customs: “Do you have anything to declare?”

Me: “No.”

Customs: “Any food?”

(I think for half a second, pull the unmarked bag of white, powdery aspartame out of my coat pocket, and say:)

Me: “Yes.”

(I have never seen armed men come that fast. They put me in a back room and a few minutes later a border agent comes in.)

Border Agent: “What are you doing with this much cocaine?”

Me: “What?! No, this is aspartame. It’s a sweetener.”

Border Agent: “Never heard of it. What is aspartame?”

Me: “You know, I don’t really know.”

(I open the bag and dip my finger into it and lick it.)

Me: “Good God! That’s sweet!”

(The border agent also tastes it and agrees it really is a sweetener. But before they let me go, the border agent makes a comment.)

Border Agent: “Makes sense it wasn’t cocaine; I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough to pull out a bag of cocaine when asked if there was anything to declare.”

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French Disconnection

| Working | September 28, 2015

(I’ve come to Quebec to learn how to improve my French. This is the first time I’ve ever gone on a plane by myself, much less to a place where English is a secondary language, so I’m rather nervous. I approach the customs counter wearing a shirt with English phrasing and looking very much like a tourist.)

Agent: “Bonjour.”

Me: *thinking I should at least give it a shot* “Bonjour.”

(The agent goes through his directions in French. Both his speed and his accent completely throw me off and I just stand there.)

Me: *in English* “Well, if you’re going to go that fast.”

(He stops and stares at me before breaking down into laughter for at least a solid minute.)

Agent: “I’m so sorry, miss.”

Me: “It’s all right.”

(Everything proceeds normally until we get to the reason for my stay.)

Me: “You’ll love this. I’m here to study French.”

(He giggles as I hand over my papers and checks to make sure everything is in order. I get everything back.)

Agent: “Bon journee mademoiselle.”

Me: “Bon journee.”

(I couldn’t be mad at a guy with a good sense of humor and a thankless job. I hope I made his day.)

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