Several years ago, my now husband (let’s call him Beau) and I visited St. Croix. It’s a beautiful island, and we had a wonderful time, augmented with delightful rum drinks.
We soon learned that rum – in fact, all alcohol – was cheap: a fifth of rum was $2.60, Chivas was $10. We also learned that each visitor could take six bottles of alcohol home if two were made in the Caribbean. While I don’t care much about alcohol, there’s little I like better than a bargain.
With great choices and low prices, we shopped with abandon, not realizing until packing for home that we had 13 bottles.
Beau was unconcerned. I was worried. What if I get caught? Will I go to jail? Will it make the newspaper back home? What will the neighbors think? (It never crossed my mind to leave a bottle behind.)
It’s important to know: Like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. To clarify, I’m capable of lying but I always fess up because my conscience won’t allow otherwise. But I decided to be a wild woman — a scofflaw — and packed my illegal $2.60 bottle of island rum.
Arriving at the airport to return to Akron, my heart starts to beat a little faster.
In line for security – a lone man standing at the door to the tarmac – my heart begins to pound.Three people are ahead of me, and the agent asks the first a question.
“What did he ask her?” I whispered.
“He asked if she enjoyed herself.”
“What do you think he meant by that?”
Beau rolls his eyes. I start to sweat.
Two people are ahead of me. The agent gestures to the man’s carry-on, tags it and sets it aside. My hands start to shake.
One person is ahead of me. The agent asks the elderly woman a question I don’t hear. He waves someone over who picks up her bag and escorts her to the plane. I think they must be taking her stateside – to jail. I’m near tears.
It’s my turn. The agent smiles broadly and holds out his hand for my ID and declaration form. I hand it over, careful to maintain eye contact and an unconcerned smile. Unfortunately, I look like a slightly addled caffeine freak. He asks if I enjoyed St. Croix, and my throat is so dry I only squeak.
The agent hands back my ID and says, “Have a nice flight,” to which I respond by throwing my hands up in the air and shrieking, “I confess!” His jaw drops open, and he asks, “To what?”
My confession tumbles out in a rush. “I have an extra bottle of rum. I’m sorry! I miscounted. Really! I never break the law. It’s island rum. Take it! I’m sorry! Will I go to jail?”
Embarrassed by the scene, Beau drops back and joins some other passengers.
The agent starts to laugh. He calls over a coworker, whispers in her ear, and she starts to laugh. I’m oblivious, busy deciding if I should use my one phone call for an attorney or a priest.
He hands back my ID and says, “Thank you for visiting St. Croix. Please come back.”
I don’t move, unsure what just happened. Slowly I realize I’m not headed for the Big House. I thank him profusely and promise I’ve been scared straight. I’m about to hug him when Beau grabs my arm and steers me out the door, shaking his head and looking pained.
A short while later, airborne, I breathe a sigh of relief that my brush with the law is over. And though we’ve been back to St. Croix several times, I’ve never bought another bottle of rum. Clearly, I’ve had enough.
/ Former scofflaw Tess Michaels lives in the Greater Akron area. She abides by the law and pays full retail for any and all liquor purchases.