Getting a gun through customs

10 08 2011

It’s much easier to get out of the US than in it. When I went from Philadelphia to Germany, my luggage shipped straight to the Berlin-Tegel Airport. But getting back into the US? Not so easy.

Our problems started at the Berlin airport. This isn’t a US-specific rule, but all checked luggage must be under 50 pounds, or 23 kilograms. Kids had different strategies to fit within this limit:

Luckily, my luggage was

Though the German airlines seems rather lenient with this limit: I saw kids with up to 23.6 kilos get through.

American security also started in Berlin. Every passenger in the airport had to answer security questions. If we passed, we got a special sticker on our passport indicating that, well, we’re not crazy.

All the students passed security just fine and boarded the first plane to Frankfurt. We were to travel together from Berlin to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Washington DC where we would finally part ways.The flights weren’t nearly as bad as the first time. Probably because the 8-hour Frankfurt–DC flight wasn’t overnight.

So at 3PM US time, we arrived in Washington DC. On the airplane, we had to fill out a customs declaration form, declaring what products we were bringing into the US. Despite going through security in Berlin, we had to go through it again in DC. And then we had to pick up our luggage and go through customs…

I, thankfully, was not detained. But one student took quite a long time getting through, namely because of the things in his suitcase:

Just to clarify, though, the gun was completely unusable. It was rusted through, a hunk of metal junk-- really just a piece of rusted steel in the vague shape of a gun. Real weapons obviously aren't allowed through customs.

But if you show respect to security, security will show respect back. The kid was allowed to take all of it! I was actually mad I didn’t take home any Mosel wine.

And as the same student lived on a farm and interacted with farm animals., he had to get sprayed for microbes.

Customs took, I’d estimate, about two hours. Not too bad. I checked my luggage back in, waited at my gate for a two-hour layover, and finally traveled the short half-hour flight from DC to Philadelphia. Germany is awesome, but after 19 hours in transit, I was glad to be home again.

Though when I later opened my suitcase, I discovered that the TSA had left me a little present.