This is a true story about one girl’s heroic attempt to save a banana from the Australian government.
Herded like duty-free cattle through a queue, we await the frown-faced customs official who will decide our fate. Grant us permission to explore the beauty of the outback, dive the splendorous Great Barrier Reef, road trip along the west coast, or…send us back to where we came from.
As I weave my way through roped off corridors, the fear within me intensifies. I’m scared of the upcoming interrogation. I’m nervous for the questions I’ll be asked, and for those I’m unable to answer. I fear that they’ll search my bag’s contents, and discover the ripened truth that lies inside. I’m terrified they’ll find my banana.
I cannot bear to face the consequences! What if after such a tiresome journey, I am turned back and sent away? I contemplate the conversation in my head. Consider just how I’ll choose to defend my potassium-rich produce. I want to promise that the fresh fruit will not taint Australia- that it remains untouched by chemicals and/or terrorist threats- but I’m uncertain that my words will truly be heard or trusted. After all, just look at me. I’m a backpacker, disheveled in appearance and overdue for a shower. I can’t be trusted.
Finally, it’s my turn. I approach the customs counter, trying my best to keep composed. Eyes darting between my passport photo and me, the official keeps a close watch- she’s desperate for discrepancies. For a moment, she stares silently at my photo, doubting that twenty-year-old “college” me could be the same girl who stands before her now. After a few minutes, she confirms the facts. She concludes that while I’m slightly less hippie than the days of yore, my eyes are still hazel, and I haven’t grown an inch. She believes that I’m me! Excellent. I might be safe after all.
She begins scanning the back of my customs form. For each good that is listed, I’ve declared a bold and emphatic no. She reaches the bottom of the form, and a check in the wrong box catches her eye. Honestly and foolishly, I’ve declared a single good.
“What fruit are you declaring?” she asks, intrigued.
“One banana,” I stammer, “Just one.”
I don’t know why I’ve quantified the banana. In doing so, I appear all the more devious. She is concerned not with the amount of bananas I harbor, but with banana-harboring, itself.
“Anything else?” she asks, eyeing my tattered backpack.
I ponder this question. If I tell someone a partial truth, does that make me an honest person?
It’s true that I have a banana in my bag, but that’s not exactly the full story. Actually, I have an assortment of goodies, including (but not limited to): two granola bars, one bag of grapes, and half a kilo of dried fruits and nuts.
In everyday life, food items would not embarrass me. Ordinarily, such on-the-go healthy eats are commendable, but here- in this peculiar customs world-such items are criminal. Next time, should I consider chips?!
“Ma’am?” she asks, interrupting my train of thought, “Do you have anything else you’d like to declare?”
I take a deep breath and shriek, “I said just one banana!!”
She gives me a look that resembles that of a disappointed parent, and proceeds to stamp my form. I. Am. Cleared.
At this point, one might suspect that I’m celebrating. I should be high-fiving myself for not spending twenty bucks at the airport on “survival snacks,” but instead, I’m left feeling uneasy. My partial truth feels like a downright lie, and I contemplate my being a terrible person.
I spend the next ninety seconds sulking in a corner of cry. I shed some tears before remembering something that cheers me up- I have snacks! Oblivious to my place and proximity to the customs queue, I pull out my bag of undeclared deliciousness, and munch away furiously and excitedly. Mmm. That’s better.