Found a group blog post at Bearshapedsphere where folks are sharing their best customs story and since we've had our share of chuckles with customs officials I decided to jump in.
After spending a year in Uganda, we were heading home. 9/11 had happened during our stay overseas so we knew to expect some heightened security. Ha! We were clueless...
The easiest part was leaving Uganda. Although the customs official who x-rayed our bags (those we checked through) was considerably puzzled by the several large panga knives. "Are you going camping?" he asked us. "No." "Oh, you are going to garden!" he guessed. "No." "You are clearing land for a house?" he tried one last time. "No. They're to give as gifts, souvenirs," we explained. He looked confused but let us through.
We'd grown accustomed to men carrying big guns while living in Uganda (almost every store had a security guard with a big gun) but it was a shock to see men in uniforms with big guns all over every airport during our trip back to the U.S.
In Brussels my daughter's purse was emptied because they noticed something that looked suspiciously like scissors while scanning her carry-on. It was her eyelash curler which we know is wicked dangerous in the wrong hands.
Our luggage was all bulging with an excess of items and also a little the worse for wear so the hubby had literally goat-roped it all shut. It's called goat rope because its primary use is to tether the goats but it is simply a strong handmade sisal rope, usually in lengths of two or more yards. He'd basically used enough to weave a netting around the suitcases so they wouldn't bust or fall open. I'm not sure what customs at Heathrow thought, but they cut the ropes off one of the suitcases whereupon it immediately fell apart and I lost one of my favorite sandals. Not sure if anything else was missing because I hadn't made a comprehensive packing list. I think once they saw the condition of that suitcase and its pitiful contents, they determined the remainder of our bags posed no threat.
In the end we made it home with almost everything. One suitcase even arrived before we did after being lost in the bowels of Heathrow for the two weeks we visited friends in Ireland. But that's a story in and of itself.
We have other stories, especially the big one about getting our container through customs when we moved here last year. But the memories are still too fresh and painful and we just can't talk about it yet without getting emotional. The side stitches hurt too much to re-visit that experience. Another time.
Meanwhile if you'd like to read other, much funnier, stories about dealing with the customs officials of the world, stop by Bearshapedsphere.