Gathering Places


Friday, June 7, 2002

With friends like these,
a guy could get in trouble

It seems that in my "golden" years I have become a part of an international drug cartel whose avowed purpose is to smuggle drugs into Hawaii to cure headaches.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a friend who lives in Canada. I mentioned to Bernice that I had a headache, a not uncommon occurrence. She suggested that I take some aspirin.

I told her that the only time aspirin actually eased one of my headaches was once in Canada when I picked up some "222," an over-the-counter aspirin that has a touch of codeine mixed in it.

And besides, I take aspirin each morning for my heart, and it doesn't stop the headaches.

My dear friend took it upon herself to enter a drug cartel. She is 84 years old and retired, so she has plenty of time to engage in international misdeeds. She went to a store, got a small bottle of 222 and packed it in a plain brown paper wrapper. In her devious ways, she labeled it as "codeine aspirin" on the customs form in order to further confound the authorities. She then went to a Canadian post office and mailed it.

Well, our ever-alert customs authorities in Hawaii intercepted the parcel and sent the empty box -- complete with brown paper wrapper and custom form -- to me. They also included a note saying that I would be contacted by the customs department with further news and instructions.

I figured I had two options. I could be content with my empty box and brown paper wrapper, or I could get an attorney and fill out forms and try to claim my 222. I felt a headache coming on.

In the end, I elected to not bother filling out the forms. I have lived with an aching head all these many years, and the few years still allotted to me will have to pass without my becoming dependent upon drugs or smugglers.

On learning of the customs department's intercession in her plan to relieve my pain, my friend Bernice was terrified that the FBI or some such organization would come knocking on her door. She really is not involved in any drug cartels. At least not the ones I have heard about. However, I have had my suspicions over the years about her claim of being a retired eye doctor.

People all over the country can rest easy tonight knowing that the U.S. customs department is ever alert and keeping foreign drug smugglers who truthfully label customs' forms under control. That, of course, does not take into account the tons of drugs that cross the Mexican border each week, nor the 98 percent of shipping containers that cross the oceans to our ports each week and are not even opened, let along investigated.

I don't know about you, but I certainly feel both secure and severely chastised, and I shall forever refrain from discussing my health with foreign friends who may have drug connections at the corner pharmacy. I don't wish to risk what is left of my life in a federal prison as some tattooed felon's plaything. Thank you, customs man.

Arnold Van Fossen, a retired magazine promotion
manager, lives in Waikiki.

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