One of the Boys, who’s a customs official at the airport, was telling us about the increasing number of “swallowers” they’re seeing arriving off international flights. Swallowers, apparently, are those optimistic travellers who board a flight with their stomach full of packets of cocaine. The idea is that, in due course, the packages work their way through the digestive system and emerge at the other end ready to be extracted from the lavatory and sold on.
Airport Man said that suspected swallowers are detained until such time as the packages might reasonably be expected to travel south. Sometimes the packages leak, causing the suspect to exhibit bizarre behaviour and astonishing strength, needing four or more customs officials to hold them down. Other times the packages burst, causing the suspect to drop dead.
More often than not, the cocaine turns up as expected in the toilet pan, causing the suspect to spend long periods of time in a British prison.
Airport Man said some smugglers “hold onto” their stomach contents for days, even weeks, until nature finally forces its way through. Apparently a customs officer has to stay with them until this happens, which must get a bit tedious for both parties. I can’t imagine that someone who’s been used to a regular post-breakfast poo would feel much like witty banter or intellectual conversation after a week of straining to keep it in while being closely watched by a bored foreign bloke in a uniform.
Some smugglers are driven to it out of desperation – one young man was trying to raise money to pay for his mother’s cancer treatment in Africa – others out of coercion, like the young woman who arrived at Gatwick with black eyes and a broken nose but no cocaine, having refused at the last minute to act as a mule.
Airport Man told the tale of one man who got the mother of all sore throats after swallowing 96 packets and refused to continue, at which the drug baron insisted he bend over, and inserted the rest of the 100-strong consignment where the sun doesn’t shine.
And one swallower got safely through customs in London after a flight from Portugal and ejected the packets, only for the compatriots she met at the airport to retrieve them from the toilet and swallow them, unwashed, in preparation for their onward flight to Africa.
Other poor sods have apparently been told that, having had the correct magic ritual performed pre-flight, they will be invisible to the customs officers, only to find that’s not quite true.
Sometimes the detainees are apparently respectable, middle class businessmen who give no outward appearance of being crims, whose baggage carries no incriminating traces and who would normally be let through – the only reason to hold them being the utter conviction of the police in the country of departure that they are guilty as hell, a conviction that often proves correct, once their digestive juices lead to the inevitable conclusion.
All this led to a discussion about whether drugs should be legalised. Most felt this would be a good idea as it would take the drugs trade out of the hands of gangsters and put it in the hands of the state. While agreeing with this in principle, I’m slightly averse to the idea of putting any more profit-making opportunities in the hands of the greedy corporations that presumably would end up running the newly-liberated cocaine retailing industry. The very idea of banning certain drugs would then be unthinkable, since the corporations would simply not allow it. We could then no more ban heroin than we could ban alcohol now – the commercial interests involved would outweigh any public interest.
Rory arrived at this point in the discussion and lowered the tone by talking about his new haircut, an all-over Number One crew-cut, which had left him looking like that dense blond pilot bloke out of Top Gun. Why pay good money for a haircut, he argued, when you can do it yourself with a £12 gadget that, admittedly, did look like it was intended for chopping onions and might perhaps take your ear off.
This led the boys on to discussing other methods of hair removal. Julian said he’d once had his chest waxed for charity and it had stung something shocking. The others weren’t aware that hair grew back after waxing, so I showed them my legs, looking fairly hairy three weeks post-wax. The subject of “back, sack and crack” came up then. Rory said he’d not consider the “sack”, and would far rather deal with that bit with a pair of nail scissors. Julian said he’d never have the “crack”, for fear it would “play havoc with me piles”.
I left them in the spa pool debating the possibility of hormone replacement to address middle-aged libido loss.
Pic credit: Ambro, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499