Buenos Aires, December 2014
I know we've all been there and done that, but picture the scene...
Dozens of passengers, dazed, sweaty and with eyes propped open with match sticks, shuffle en masse a la Walking Dead, in the general direction of SALIDA.
The procession comes to a grinding halt at immigration, where you are met with line after line of yet more zombies, sans air conditioning and 13 hours in the air seems a mere trifle against the interminable welcome of Ezeiza.
Having ticked all the right boxes with the passport official who couldn't seem to give a damn anyway and totally ignores your AFIP customs form (will make excellent loo paper), you fall under the misguided notion that you're on the home straight.
Wrong! Gird your loins.
In my case, I simply followed the snaking mass of other weary souls and headed for what I saw as an ill defined bunch of lines waiting for the coup de grace, otherwise known as the search and destroy customs team. On taking my place in what I perceived to be roughly the correct spot in the queue, a foppish, gallic looking and I have to say, quite handsome fellow, snarled at me to get to the back of the line and his wife, who seemed so irate to have lost the power of speech, merely drove steel stakes through my soul with her eyes.
Passengers fighting in airport terminals is never a pretty sight, but since my new Louis Vuitton friend began to snarl even louder and more venomously, I gave him the Anglo Saxon reply, which simply reduced him to muttering something about pigs and truffles.His wife looked like she needed a drink or possibly something more soothing, as did I.
Don't get me wrong; we Brits would queue up for for the hangman's noose.
And so, the lads at Ezeiza appear to have perfected the art of luggage inspections in the same way that south sea islanders of old had perfected cannibalism.On approaching the X-Ray machines before my final goal, which I could see in the near distance over their heads, marked EXIT in large green letters, I unexpectedly had a moment of terror and panic rush down my spine.
I was expecting a SWAT team at any moment.
Would the death ray machines see my haul of tea bags, various condiments and numerous items of an electronic flavour?
As the cases slid far too slowly through the machine, I stole a glance at the customs operator and decided that he didn't look such a menacing fellow after all. And then he stopped the machine, my cases came to an abrupt halt and in a split second I was overwhelmed with an urge to flee the scene.
At which he simply approached me and asked rather too menacingly for my liking 'do you intend to sell these items sir?'
'What items sir?' I asked in my finest Queen's English, since I conveniently forgot how to speak Spanish in that moment.
'Usted es Argentino señor?'
'No sir, British.' Puffing my chest out for effect.
'Oh, that's alright then, you're free to go, enjoy your holiday.'
'I will and thank you sir!'
You know that feeling when you say to yourself 'better get going, but not too fast or he might call you back and in a loud voice, shout 'Sr Thomas!!!''??
That was one of those moments and so I made haste as nonchalantly as I could and didn't look back, but grateful to the Argentine state for at least providing me some free loo paper, which was sort of a first.