Walking out of Customs at Logan Airport in Boston, I was ecstatic: it was Christmas Eve, and I was headed home, for a short break after three months of my nine month stay in Slovenia.
I had my backpack and my jacket, but not much else. But then again, I didn’t need much else. I’d never carried so little, and I was refreshed as I’d been waiting during my hours-long layover in Amsterdam, where carolers accompanied by a quartet of musicians moved from gate to gate.
I’d been able to get up, move around, visit American-style stores like Starbucks that I hadn’t seen since September, and generally enjoy the atmosphere. I was, thankfully, spared from the horrendous snow delays in London and the rest of Europe.
I was so happy, I reached into my backpack for the two plump Granny Smith apples I’d packed in my bag back in Slovenia, and crunched into them. Yum.
I hardly thought of any of this when I arrived at Logan. I was waiting for my two giant suitcases, full of gifts for my family, to come off the baggage claim conveyor belt. I might have packed light, at least where carry-ons were concerned, but I’d certainly packed my two giant suitcases to the brim. Starting to get a little bit tired from the journey, I picked up a baggage cart and set my backpack down. I assessed the pack’s contents: my purse, my Kindle, my iPod, and a square of chocolate, which was actually from Seattle: a gift from my roommate’s hometown.
Gazing at the conveyor belt, looking for my large black suitcase in a sea of large black suitcases, I felt something brush by my leg.
Before I could swat it away or look, I realized it was two little puppy paws, now reaching up toward my knees. When I turned, I saw a little white-haired and tan-eared pup with a TSA vest staring up at me. His nose sniffed in the air till it found my backpack, and then he stopped, and stood patiently there, paws perched on my cart.
Small and quiet, I almost wanted to pet the little guy, but I was too perplexed. What on earth was he sniffing in my backpack? I went through the mental list of what was in there again, and couldn’t come up with anything that should have interested him—unless he was sniffing the chocolate square.
“Any fruits or seeds?” his owner, a TSA official, asked, as I stared blankly ahead.
“No,” I said.
“What’s in your backpack?” the owner asked.
“My Kindle, iPod, pens, um… a small square of chocolate?” I said, hoping I’d provided the right answer: a mistaken chocolate sniffing by an eager pup.
“Any fruits?” I was asked again.
“No,” I said.
“Were there fruits in there before?”
Then my mind went back to the carols in Amsterdam, the happy wait at the gate, as I crunched into my ripe, green Granny Smiths.
“Two apples, earlier today,” I said as I motioned toward my nearly empty backpack, “but I ate them in Europe.”
The answer satisfied the official, who offered the pup a treat before walking away, off to find would-be seed and fruit smugglers.
I stuck my head near my backpack, and the distinct odor of the previously-consumed fruits came out of my backpack. Who knew apples could leave a trace smell, hours after they’d been removed from a bag?
The only thing that struck me as stranger than that was the fact that small pups were assigned to sniff for fruits and seeds. Of course, I understood that it was illegal to bring in meats, fruits, seeds, and vegetables to the U.S. from other countries. But between the jetlag and the fact that an adorable 10 lb. canine was on the prowl for such things, I sort of just wanted to giggle.
Just then, I saw my suitcases rounding the corner.
Time to go home, I thought, as I loaded my gifts onto my cart and got ready to leave.
As I wheeled my stuff out of the baggage claim area, I passed the tiny fruit pup, which, wagging its tail, was sniffing around other passengers who hadn’t found their bags so quickly.
Published last week by the Southbridge Evening News and other Stonebridge Press and Villager Newspapers.