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James Suckling

Another Flight from Havana

Posted: Jun 11, 2008 10:10am ET
Leaving Havana can be the worst experience at times. Sometimes you can take away things that you can’t smoke nor bargained for. I flew to Los Angeles over the weekend from the island and I found that I brought back something that I didn’t count on. It took effect on my Mexicana flight from Cancun to Los Angeles. And I spent the better part of the five-hour flight in the can — all in the day and the life of a smoker/drinker/foreign correspondent.

I am still suffering as I write this, but I am sure it will go away soon.

Anyway, the really annoying part was that about 30 minutes before we landed in LAX, I was going through my courier bag to find a pen to fill out my immigration form and I found a small Humidipak Humidor Bag full of four Romeo y Julieta Exhibicion No. 4s! Shit. I was supposed to smoke those at lunch in Havana with some friends at Aljibe restaurant before I left.

I started thinking to myself about the last flight to the United States from Havana via Cancun where U.S. Customs in Dallas took my cigars and chopped them in half in front of me. Of course, they were just doing their job. Remember my blog on March 5? But I just didn’t want to go through that bullshit again. And I didn’t know when I was going to have to find the next bano.

So, as we started our descent, I decided to just leave the Humidipak in the pocket of the seat in front of me with the magazines. I wonder if anyone has found the cigars yet on Mexicana 946C? I hated to leave them like that, but I felt like I had no choice. I felt like a criminal leaving a bag of drugs or something. IT WAS ONLY FOUR CIGARS! BUT THAT’S THE STUPIDITY OF THE LAWS.

The plane landed in Los Angeles, and I rushed to the immigration desk to try to get through before the bacteria eating at my intestines created another gastric disaster. To my horror, the Bradley Terminal looked like the last few days of Saigon! The only thing missing was the Huey helicopters!!

I swear that every 747 from the Far East to LAX must have arrived at the same time. The lines were absolutely humongous. I wasn’t sure what to do. And I certainly did not have any Pampers with me.

I decided to find someone looking officious and plead for mercy. I found my mark. He was a man about my age, slightly balding and talking to a pretty woman co-worker. I ran over.

“Hello. I am sorry to bother you with this. But do I really have to stand in this long line to get through immigration and customs?” I asked.

They looked at me like I was asking to borrow money, or something worse. I felt like the homeless on Sunset Boulevard. And then they looked at themselves and almost laughed together. The woman told me to get in line like everyone else.

I went straight for the dude. “I am really sorry but I am really ill. I was coming from Mexico and I was in the can for most of the flight. I am not going to make it through that massive line. Could you please help me?” I said.

He looked at me in shock, and then sympathy. It was one of the God knowing moments in one’s life. “No problem. Take the poor guy through immediately,” he said.

I thanked him profusely. I felt like offering him one of my children as payment, but I knew he couldn’t afford the school fees or the child maintenance. The woman led me through the huge line straight to the front. I felt like a rock star, or better for the moment, an important diplomat.

Then I realized that my immigration card said that I had been to Cuba along with Mexico. I was sure the immigration office was going to balk on that one. Just like they always do. I knew I was screwed.

I couldn’t believe it. But if she even looked at the form, I would have been surprised. She looked at me and then stamped it, without even saying a word. Nothing.

I walked away with my carry-on bag straight to the exit where the customs officer looked at the form and said nothing as well.

I thought about those cigars sitting seat pocket of the Mexicana Airbus for a split second as I walked out into the free world of LAX. I guess I shouldn’t have given them up so easily? But then thoughts quickly turned to something much more pressing, like the location of the nearest men’s room.

Comments   3 comment(s)

Brent Young June 11, 2008 11:24am ET

Sorry to hear about your run in with Montezuma's Revenge, but hate even worse to hear about the cigars that you donated to some lucky person. Hope you get to feeling better.


Edward Kobesky June 11, 2008 8:51pm ET

I recently had food poisoning for the first time last Christmas. (A bad clam, I think.) In the past, I had thought that I'd had it but nope...this time it was the real deal. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy and I ended up losing a week's work and about 15 pounds at the tail end of it.

I can't even imagine what I would have done if I'd been in a hotel in a foreign country somewhere, let alone an airplane followed by -- gulp -- a saunter through LAX and then a nice long sphincter-testing crawl down the 405. Yikes!

Suckling, once again, nice reporting...you are the MAN, pampers or no pampers.


Barry Kamen — NY —  June 15, 2008 8:35pm ET

I have been through US Customs many times and they have never searched my person. Why not invest in a nice 3-finger case and keep it in your inside pocket for those times when you just happen to have a few smokes with you for later?



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