Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ma'am, I'm Going to Have to See Your Apples

So, T was driving when we arrived in California.  Up ahead of us we saw a road block...immigration check, we wonder?  No.  It's the food police.  Seriously.  The California Dept. of Ag. was stopping every car coming in on I40 and asking if there are fruit or vegetables in the car.

"Where are you coming from today?" the Ag. officer asked.
"New York," I replied cheerfully.  I did not feel cheerful.  I thought he was going to ask for all our I.D.s to make sure we were citizens.  Or something.

"That's a long haul," he said with all the bureaucratic charm he could muster.


"Ma'am, this is an agricultural stop.  Do you have any fruits or vegetables in your vehicle?"

I stared wide-eyed.  They stopped me for this?  "Um...I have some apples in the cooler."

"Ma'am, I'm Going to Have to See Your Apples."

Could my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes grown any wider, they would have.  I hopped, or, rather, stiffly lurched, out of the car, opened the back, and took a half-empty bag of golden delicious apples out of the cooler.  One fell out of the bag and rolled away.  The nice Ag guy watched as the apple rolled towards him, and looked up at me.  I felt as though I had just dropped a bit of contraband.  In fact, I have never felt so guilty about apples.

"Those appear to be Washington State apples, Ma'am.  Those are fine."

I was so relieved as he confirmed his guess by looking at the label on the bag.  Yes.  I had returned the apples 3000 miles to the west coast.  He continued.  Really.

"Ma'am, just for future information, we want you to know that we encourage you to eat fruits and vegetables."  More relief.

"Just so you know, you cannot bring certain fruits into the state of California.  Those fruits include blueberries and strawberries."  I gave him a funny glance. "I mean, blueberries and cherries, not strawberries.  Strawberries are fine."

My normally scientific brain, having rigorously read the road for nearly 3000 miles, turned completely off as he freely offered an explanation.  All I heard next was "Blah blah fruit flies blah blah inspection blah blah."

"OK," I said, "that's good to know."

"And Ma'am," Would this never end?  "If you bring apples into California again, just slice them.  We will not require inspection if you have cut them up into small slices and put them in a zip-lock bag."

I blinked like an idiot.  Several times.

"OK," I said again.  Gosh, what else could I have said?  I mean, here the guy was telling me that I could have avoided all this trouble had I only pre-processed my fruit?  Really?  And next time, if stopped, I could claim my apples were sliced, and drive right on through?  Could this be real, or was it all an odd dream devised by my sleep-deprived brain?  No.  L and T confirmed that it actually occurred.  In fact, L said it was all she could do to keep herself from laughing at the way I stared at the Ag guy.

"Ma'am, may I assume you don't want the dropped apple?"

"Yeah, no."  I left the apple.  He set it on the table next to the pile of potential paperwork he had set up for unsuspecting blueberry smugglers.  I got back in the car, and T pulled carefully away from the Dept. of Ag. stop.


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Mary G said...

It does sound silly, doesn't it? But it's all a hold-over from the 70s when we had decimation from fruit flies coming in from tainted fruit ... just about ruined the crops for a few years.

Hope Trip loves TAC and California ...

Heather - Doodle Acres said...

That is the best travel story ever!!! Attack of the killer apple!!!

Anonymous said...

Again, I'm snorting coffee. You and your stories! No more liquor or drug checks, fruit is the new addiction.

Anonymous said...

As someone used to all of that (Mary G - do you remember the malathion spraying in the late 70s I think?) it was hilarious to read this and see how absurd it all seems! When we drove through in April we were fortunate to just have one banana, which apparently wasn't a problem. :)