Not-so-customary Customs


The loveydoveyness goodbyes with Prem and Ramesh lasted about 30 seconds after we turned away to walk into the airport.  Everyone was tired, and it was still too early to process what we had all been through.  At least we could look forward to going back to India (yes, I said it) and staying in our luxury hotel.  Then again, after our cabins in the Himalayas I would have been equally thrilled with a Clarion.

Once at the airport, we got my mom a wheelchair to maneuver around as we went through all the customs checks, which were set up in three stages.  First our passports were checked, and our tickets got a special stamp clearing us for the next phase.  Then security checked our baggage which yielded another stamp on our tickets.  In the final stage, the customs agent checks us out one last time and sends us on our way.  Pretty standard stuff.

I do not need to go into why Morgan and my father were still on each other’s nerves; I don’t remember anyway.   Whatever the reason was, it is irrelevant to what happened next.

Dad usually holds all of the passports and distributes them before we go through customs.  But Morgan refused to even go near my dad.  No Dad, no passport.  So Dad, Tim, and Kevin had already gone through the customs and were on the other side of the airport, and the rest of us were still waiting in line. Morgan was next. She cooly walked up to the agent.

“Passport?”  The agent asked.

Morgan told him with a straight face that she didn’t have it. This was perplexing to the officer.  It’s not like you can pull the “Oh, you mean I need a passport for all this?” card.

“That guy over there in the yellow jacket has it,” she said cooly, pointing at my dad sitting down on the other side of the airport.  I was impressed by her whit.

“Madam, do you know that man?” The agent was trying to play along.  But if I’m the agent and someone walks up and tells me that they don’t have a passport, I’m gonna want an explanation.

“Uhh, yeah, she said.” Morgan repeated.

Once the agent mentally ruled out that this was not a passport theft or an international child trafficking case, he got one of the other agents to walk over to my dad and obtain Morgan’s passport.  Completely mortified, I watched as he tapped my dad on the shoulder and pointed to Morgan standing at the customs desk.  Then my Dad forked over her passport without a word, as if he had no idea what was going on, and the agent walked it back to Morgan at the customs desk.  Our shenanigans were holding up what felt like the entire airport.

I turned around to complain to Deirdre.  At this point I’d stopped apologizing to her, it did very little anyway, and instead wanted to secure her for my side of the family conflict.  I should have employed this earlier–as the 7th member of our party, Deirdre’s vote was the tipping point to the family opinion, which often results in a 3-3 draw.  As a voice of reason, Deirdre agreeing with me afforded my side some serious street cred.

“Oh my god, what the heck is her problem?” I asked Dee.  I could no longer just smile at her and pretend I didn’t notice the free comedy show my family was putting on in the middle of the airport.  Deirdre didn’t really care and seemed pretty over the nonsense.  So ten minutes later, after what should have been a 25 second process, Morgan cleared customs. I don’t think he was still mad, but Dad walked through another terminal of the airport on his own as a preventative measure.  Because just when you think everything you could possibly argue over has already been picked over, somehow, someway, another conflict will find you. The devil is an incredibly resourceful dude.

Kevin, being the lovely first-born son that he is, pushed my mother around the airport in a wheelchair to the boarding gate, swerving and circling about to lighten the mood.  Now with my mom in  a wheelchair our group garnered even more attention.  Once at the gate, we began talking to a Canadian couple that were just finishing up a stint in India and had decided to journey to Nepal for a visit.  They were older, early 60’s probably, and asked us what happened to Mom.  We recounted a majorly modified and happier version of the tale for them, because they seemed like a genuinely happy couple and we didn’t want to spoil their trip.

“Well, believe it or not, we can kind top that story,” the wife said with a smile.

Are you kidding? I haven’t been out of the Himalayas more than 5 hours and the first English speaking person I meet is telling me they can top that? This was not going to serve my blog ratings well. The wife then told us a story about how she and her husband took a trip to Australia with her elderly father.  It was a beautiful day and they had spent hours swimming at the beach.  And then not long after, right there on the sand, the woman’s father had a heart attack and died.  When she was through with the story, the woman let out a little laugh, which she made no effort to contain.

Freeze.  How would you react to this? Do you laugh with them? Personally I was horrified that a) they were telling us this story and b) that they were laughing. I was so stricken that I could barely get the words “I am so sorry” out.

“Oh it’s okay,” she said cheerfully, “he had a really good life, and when you think about it, it’s not a terrible way to go, a heart attack on the beach, you know?” I nodded my head but was too focused on how this woman was still smiling.

“You know, the only thing was that when we got back, people asked us how our trip to Australia was, and we’d always say, ‘Well, we lost one along the way, but other than that great!”

You see, so it’s all about perspective. One of us could be coming back in a box. I guess there was still a chance of that, we had one more day in Delhi.


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