The lady in the little booth sauntered over as I rolled up in our Honda and let the window down. “Any fresh fruit or plants?” she wanted to know.
“Yes,” I said, holding up our on-the-road munchies. “A bag of cherries.”
She eyed the bag, purchased fresh from Safeway that morning. “You feel like having a cherry snack?”
I thought about asking what on earth could be wrong with a bag of cherries that had likely been grown in this same state and trucked past this same little booth, going the opposite direction, probably just days before. But I know better than to argue with the border patrol, so I pulled over and the Princesses and I ate a few handfuls before bringing the bag – along with every single pit and stem, as per the directions we were given – back to the agent. And then we went on our way.
I know better than to argue, but it didn’t mean I didn’t want to. Besides the question about the northbound truck, here’s what I would have liked to ask:
– If I had said, “No,” and kept driving, like 99 percent of the other folks on this interstate, would you – or the state of California – have been any the wiser, or any less safe?
– Considering this booth is four miles inside the California border, do you plan to go back and collect all the pits my daughters have been spitting out the window for the past several minutes?
– Why did the bananas on our last trip get a pass?
– Where was the fresh fruit paranoia during the mid-1990s, when the state apparently didn’t feel it was a priority to staff this station and it was closed for at least five years?
– What does it cost to staff this station, and, bang for buck, does it really make a difference to California’s fruit industry?
– No, I mean it. Really?
Because honestly, that’s what it gets down to. I’m all for saving California’s fruit industry. I don’t support wholesale imports of invasive species. If someone has done a study proving that the people in the lonely little booths at the California border, who manage to nab a bag of what are probably their own state’s cherries maybe once every 12,784 cars, are actually playing a significant role in Winning the War on Terrorist Bugs, I shall support them with my whole traveling cooler. Heck, I might even turn state’s witness and rat out the kids scarfing the grapes in the Dodge Caravan behind me.
But you know, I just don’t think anyone has. I don’t think anyone could. I don’t think this little border outpost is working, will work, or really, has a cherry’s chance in Nome of working, ever. Not unless you’re prepared to go all TSA on everybody and strip-search every vehicle, every time, dropping a 16-ton weight on any offenders.
Which is why I’m not at all sorry that I didn’t mention the artichokes in the back.