02 December 2007 | Port of Spain Airport
So I have collected my baggage (which extends beyond my ability to carry) and have begun shuffling boxes and duffels and chart rolls across the floor towards the final barrier, customs.
Hideko had emailed me a document declaring my presence on the crew list of Swingin' on a Star, which saved me a big hassle at immigration. I didn't think about it when leaving because I had a round trip ticket. The problem was it was a round trip ticket that left me in Trinidad without a return flight. They don't mind you going but they get concerned when you show up without a way home. Hideko's email from the Chagaramas immigration office whisked me right through.
Customs was another story. As I approached the ominous officials at the counter their collective expressions darkened. At first I though they didn't like the look of all of my "personal affects". Well, that too, but they were really bent up about my pants.
Rewind 24 hours. I'm in Target in Fort Lauderdale trying to buy everything on Hideko's list that I can still cram into one of my bags. It then strikes me that it is going to be cold on the plane for many hours due to the insane air conditioning settings (Is it just me? Am I ranting? Or does everyone wonder who's wasting millions of kilowatts a year refrigerating public places so that only the Inuit feel at home?).
When you are on a boat pockets are good. When I'm on deck I need to have my knife, perhaps a flash light, possibly a hand bearing compass, the list goes on. If I'm going ashore, particularly with Hideko, I need my wallet, a flashlight, my knife, maybe a cell phone, hand held VHF, keys to the boat, etceteras. So this whole cargo pants fad is pretty handy in my opinion. The shelves at Target are getting picked over already so I only found one pair of good full length cargo pants that fit, and they happened to be camouflage. These would keep me warm on the flight and also work out on those rare cool days in the tropics.
Flash back to Customs, Port of Spain. "Sir we have to confiscate your pants."
To which I reply, "are you serious?" Wrong thing to say, now two of them are coming my way fixed on my pants. I begin looking for the police, but they are the police.
"Camouflage is only for the military my friend you can't have those in Trinidad."
They really wanted me to give them my pants. Right then and there. Then I realized that if they searched my bags they were going to find my favorite and most comfortable pair of shorts, also camouflage. It was at this point that I began to plead I think.
After some time they finally agreed to allow me to go to the bathroom to change. I switched to my most professional looking outfit (which is to say not very) and presented myself to the authorities. They wanted my pants. I offered every assurance that I would not display them in public for one instant while in Trinidad or Tobago. Sometime later, exhausted more than moved, they allowed me and my assurances to go.
If you're coming to Trinidad, leave your camos in the footlocker.