My Criminal Record in Latin America
San Jose Travel Blog› entry 18 of 18 › view all entries
In preparation for my approaching departure to the United States, I had finished all of my work. As a result, I found myself sitting in the office with nothing left to do. I decided to use my free time to read the Tico Times, the Costa Rican newspaper. I was surprised to find that my horoscope said I was eagerly awaiting a much needed, earlier trip home. As I was leaving on a flight at 1 am the following morning, I was astounded by the relevance it held in my life. As amazed as I was by this wonderfully knowledgeable Spanish newspaper, it forgot to mention one important thing: I would be detained and arrested in the San Jose airport. Who can stop reading after that statement? I bet you are dying for an explanation. Well, read on and enjoy a few laughs on my behalf...
The morning began with a 4 hour delay in my flight. I quickly and miserably realized that this would leave me stranded at the gate from 1-5 AM waiting for boarding. Before I could head to my horrible fate at the gate, I had to stop and check my bag. For those of you who know me, you know and understand that I have an inability to pack within the weight guidelines and limitations. As a result, check-in is usually the most stressful part of traveling for me. My original bag was obviously a bit overweight coming from the States, but I had donated quite a bit of my clothing in Costa Rica, consumed around 50 Clif bars that were originally in my bag, gave my nalgene and some other token American items to my Tico brother, and left all my toiletries behind. Surprisingly, my bag was 72 pounds -- 22 pounds over the limit!!! I had no idea what to do and I guess my confusion was evident in my eyes because a kind airline attendant offered to help me sort through my things. The problem turned out to have a very simple solution. I had packed my carry-on bag inside my large checked bag because I am lazy and I hate carrying boxy, awkward bags onto planes unless I absolutely have to. The airline attendant looked pleasantly surprised and hastily pulled out the carry-on bag and stood it upright. Happy with the simple solution, I headed toward the huge line at security immediately.
As I was going through security, I did not know I was in for the surprise of a lifetime! It turns out that the 14 inch machete I bought my best friend in Costa Rica had been packed in the small suitcase. Instead of telling me or allowing me to explain myself, the man at security had quite simply called the police. In the meantime, as he waited for the cops' arrival, he just looked like he was taking an eternity to view the X-ray of my bag. I am naturally a very impatient person so I was shooting some unkind "hurry up, I am annoyed" looks his way, which I am sure did not help my cause. Within a few minutes, the airline director and the police came in to kindly inform me that I was under arrest... in Spanish!
I began to cry for a variety of reasons:
1) I did not know why I was being arrested
2) It was already 1:15 AM and I was overtired from my previous late night goodbye celebration
3) I would get home at 6 PM instead of 10 AM
4) I had no way to tell my parents I would be late (seriously Costa Rica, whose airport does not have wireless internet these days? Get on the bandwagon!)
5) The most obvious.... POLICE were arresting me in a Latin American country!
I panicked and lost almost all of my ability to communicate in Spanish. I stammed several incoherent statements, but the fear seemed to be captivating both my mind and my tongue. Luckily the airline attendant who helped me earlier with my bag came running over to the rescue. He quickly explained the suitcase situtation and showed the police that it was a mistake and a misunderstanding. After some discussion, the police officers informed me that they were confiscating the machete (sorry Django!), that they were taking my passport information and if there was any trouble on my behalf, I would be arrested upon arrival in Boston, and that I was free to go to the gate.
I felt a little bit of remorse for the confiscated gift, but I was more focused on the waves of gratituude and relief running through my mind and body. As I reached the gate, I sunk into a seat surrounded by tons of gringos sleeping on the ground around me. From this experience, I learned a few valuable lessons. First, I really need to work on my packing skills. Second, I need to slow down and double-check things once in a while. And third and most importantly, never ever fly with Spirit Airlines because they suck.