My father has decided that I’m fairly innocent-looking, and somehow my travel plans more often than not coincide with the times he decides he needs something not readily available in his current location.
Like the time he was in Vienna and wanted to make chocolate chip cookies (because Europeans don’t understand the concept, which is a travesty) but didn’t want to pay ridiculous prices for the chocolate chips in Austria.
So he asks me to bring some chocolate chips with me when I fly out to visit him. Oh, yeah, and some vanilla. And some brown sugar. Oh, and also, could you bring some baking soda? No, I know you don’t have room for a whole box, just put a few teaspoons in a plastic bag.
…Which is how I found myself transporting a Ziploc baggie full of fine white powder through international customs.
And then there was the time Dad wanted to fix the van’s AC himself rather than pay the mechanic to do it. The problem? Wisconsin is the only state in the union in which it is illegal to sell R134a (the refrigerant he needed to fix the AC) to the general public. It’s even illegal to sell it to licensed technicians in amounts smaller than 15 pounds. Fortunately(?), I happened to be on my way to the East Coast to visit relatives–an excursion which would end in a roadtrip through six separate states, in all of which the sale of R134a is legal.
My assignment was obvious: Convince the driver to stop a car full of furnishings and a cranky cat at an auto store so I could buy refrigerant and smuggle it into WI.
…which I did, much to the amusement of the employees of an Autozone in Kentucky. And the R134a now resides on our property.
Now, in neither of these instances did I actually do anything illegal. However. I do rather resent being the mule whenever Dad needs contraband. Especially when I’m flying overseas, by myself, for the first time, with a layover in some city in Germany I’ve never heard of before, speaking approximately four words of German, one of which is “hedgehog,” running on three hours of sleep, and carrying a baggy of fine white powder.
But such is life as an engineer’s daughter.
Also included in the job description is helping said engineer in his activities with said contraband. Today I earned my Good Daughter points for the week by helping Dad put the R134a in the car (after he took a couple of tests so he was licensed to handle the refrigerant in the state of Wisconsin. Don’t you wish you had that on your resume? No? Must just be my dad, then…) My job, as always, consisted of a) holding things, b) reading things, and c) remembering numbers.
That’s right, folks, I smuggle contraband and read the fine print. That’s the bacon I bring home to my family. That and some truly fabulous fashion accessories, such as the plastic band that held the hose against the can of R134a, which I slipped around my wrist so I would remember to throw it away when we got back inside. Which I then completely forgot about until Mom asked me about it at dinner. But, Mom, all the cool kids are wearing them!
….ohhhhh, bad pun.
So, life in the Astra household continues at its usual levels of mild insanity. And then later at dinner:
“Urethane smells [sweet] too. Although I don’t suppose you’ve ever smelled urethane.”
“…no, I can’t say that I have.”
“Well, after working in a polyurethane plant that blew up every month or two, believe me when I say I know what urethane smells like.”
“It blew up every month or two?!“
“Well, it was built from requisition parts from WWII. Every once and a while you’d come across a pipe fitting with a swastika cast on it…”
…I can’t decide whether this is better or worse than me smuggling white powder through customs. Thoughts?