We casually mentioned to our server at the hotel one morning, that we hoped to find some good Dulce de Leche to take back to the States. The next day, she turned up at our table with a container. We tried to pay her, but she flatly refused. "I brought it from home. I have lots because I am a very fat girl," she said patting her flat-as-a-tortilla, size 0, Argentinean belly.
We gushed with thanks, wrapped it in plastic, and stuck into a corner of our luggage for smuggling past U.S. customs.
A day later when we were standing in the Buenos Aires airport, we noticed a line forming at a station where travelers were paying to have their luggage shrink-wrapped. We had already checked our bags -- shrink-wrap-free.
"Oh that's just so people can't get into your bags to steal, say, an iPod," said the Continental attendant.
"Or put anything IN your bags...like drugs," Jamie whispered to me as we walked away. But then his face went pale. "Maybe we should have done that."
(I wasn't buying it...He pressed on.)
"Didn't you see the documentary about that chick who's spending the rest of her life in an Indonesian prison because somebody put drugs in her bag?"
(OK...I got onboard.)
"Oh shit," I said. "The Dulce de Leche. She wouldn't let us pay. What if there are drugs in there."
We continued with this crazy-ass paranoid talk until we were both convinced that hotel employees had stashed 14 kilos of cocaine in our bags, and that we'd never see our families again. What is it about airports that can guilt you into thinking you're a drug runner or full-blown terrorist? It's sort of like waiting for the results of an employee-mandated drug test. Suddenly you're convinced that the poppy seed dressing from a salad you ate six weeks ago is gonna keep you from getting the job.
Turns out the Dulce de Leche was clean. Or at least the German Shepherd greeting us at Bush International in Houston didn't get a whiff as we skulked past him. But sadly, that container of Dulce de Leche in the refrigerator? Never been opened.