Declaration of Inebriation / by Courtney Mehlhaff

A few months ago, I took a train trip from Seattle to Vancouver, and on the return journey, I learned a little something about how seriously the United States takes its border checks.

Pretty seriously, as it turns out. As soon as we crossed some invisible line of demarcation, a voice on the loudspeaker informed us that the dining car would be temporarily closed. It also instructed us to remain seated and not to use the restrooms until after the customs agents finished their sweep of the cars.

Immediately following this announcement, a man two rows ahead of me ran into the bathroom.

Well, I thought, when you gotta go, you gotta go. But he did not return.

His empty seat did not go unnoticed by the agents, who quickly discovered the locked lavatory and began inquiring within. When that wasn't successful, they enlisted the help of the man's teenage son, who grudgingly pounded and pleaded.

Still nothing. As we all sat in uncomfortable silence, I wondered many things. Mainly, what the hell was he doing in there? Being sick? Flushing drugs? Was the jig up? Would he come out guns blazing? Should I preemptively duck and cover?

Finally, the door opened. A very annoyed border agent asked if the man had anything to declare. To everyone's surprise, he replied, "Yes!"

At this point, I was made of questions.

"What do you have to declare, sir?"

"Oh . . . nothing." And the idiot just sat down.

To be honest, I was more disappointed than relieved. All that suspense and zero payoff. Fortunately, the group of rowdy, loopy, 20-something girls next to me provided a punchline. They'd been loudly talking about how they'd partied through the night, were still half drunk and starving, and hadn't been to sleep yet. 

Just as things were wrapping up and the agents were out of earshot, one of them shouted, "Yeah, I got something to declare!"

We all waited for it.

" . . . I feel like SHIT!"