An index of the Cuba series appears at the first post.
August 5, 2015
I made it downstairs from my hotel room just in time to say farewell to the folks from Barcelona, turn in my room key, and sprint aboard the 8:00 AM hotel shuttle bus. Going through the Cancun airport seemed completely ordinary (this was my fourth visit in ten days). I returned to Johnny Rocket’s for a hot dog, but I was chagrined to see that the cheese and onion dog was slathered in Cheez Whiz. I was aboard my plane just before noon, and the flight to Chicago was merely an exercise in waiting.
Soon the moment arrived when I faced customs. The triage agent had scribbled “cigars” on my customs form, and I was side-checked to the inspection desk. The agent asked me to show her the cigars. I opened the plastic bag. The unwrapped 13 CUP cigars were no problem, since the nation of their origin did not appear on the wrapper. The gift set, however, would be confiscated because they proclaimed themselves to be from Cuba. She flipped the customs form over. “Wait, you say you were in Cuba on this trip?” She asked me to prove that I had been in Cuba, but this was a challenge since my passport had not been stamped when I arrived there. I showed her a printed email from Ross showing my CIMAB appointment. She accepted it as evidence. (I note that I was never asked to justify that my trip was allowable under current regulations.) She explained that if I had bought cigars marked “made in Cuba” while in Mexico, they would be confiscated, but if I’d bought them in Cuba on a legal trip, I could keep them. She had a quick conversation with the other agent, and I was allowed to continue on my way, with both packages of cigars.
Once I had free run of the airport, a moment of truth had arrived. Turning my phone back on after a flight would ordinarily be almost a reflex. After my week in another world, though, I gave it some thought. I had been without my phone since the moment I left Chicago on my way to Cancun, more than one week before. I knew quite a lot had likely happened in the meanwhile. My only electronic communication outside of Cuba, in fact, had come in two minutes of Gmail during my visit to CIMAB. Turning the phone back on would mean I was connected again, available and interruptible. I took a deep breath.
I powered up the phone.