Maple syrup, anyone?

The fact that Jean was a soft-spoken, mild person added to our worries as the security personnel at the airport can be quite curt and intimidating, And he didn’t know German.

airport lounge

We were at the airport in Bonn, Germany, a varied group of 15 from 15 different countries, waiting to board the flight to Berlin. Having checked in our baggage and done with the security check where we each had to stand in He-Man poses, we were just sitting around biding time. The waiting lounge was quite noisy with a lot happening at every corner. Over the din, we heard a familiar name being announced — Jean-Sebastien. It was the name of our colleague from Quebec, Canada. On hearing his name, a startled Jean sprung up from his chair but was clueless as to what was expected of him. Since the announcement was in German, none of us could follow what it was all about. Jean rushed towards the airport personnel to find out. Even as we were wondering what it was all about, a visibly worried Jean came back to inform us that they wanted to inspect his luggage that was checked in. He left his laptop bag with Mladen, another colleague, and went back to the security personnel.

It was now time to board the flight. But, Jean wasn’t back yet. We all craned our necks in the direction we had seen him go. There was no sign of him. The queue to board the flight was melting fast. We didn’t know what to do. There was no way we could leave without him, much less not knowing what the matter with his luggage was. But the clock was ticking. The flight crew were rushing us to board the flight. We reluctantly boarded the flight. There was still no sign of Jean. With just a few minutes left for take-off, we didn’t know what to do. Our eyes were glued to the entrance of the plane, hoping to see Jean come. The fact that Jean was a soft-spoken, mild person added to our worries as the security personnel at the airport can be quite curt and intimidating, as their role demands them to be. And he didn’t know German. After what seemed like an eternity, Jean walked in with a boyish grin on his face. Boy, were we relieved!

It turns out, the security personnel told Jean that the scanner had detected some ‘suspicious-looking’ objects in his big, brown suitcase and that he should open it for them to check. Jean was petrified. After all, he was in a foreign country. A million scary thoughts flooded his mind — what if somebody had planted ‘suspicious’ items in his luggage; what if he’s held as a suspect for the same; what if he’s not able to prove his innocence, and so on. He consoled himself saying he’d call his lawyer in case of an emergency, and with cold, clammy hands, opened the suitcase. But, the open suitcase revealed that everything was just as he had packed, with nothing out of place.

He tried conveying the same to the security personnel, who, at that point, triumphantly pulled out two metal cans from between the clothes in the suitcase and held them out as if convinced that the cans contained the ‘suspicious’ material.

One look at the cans and all that Jean could do was to grin. From ear to ear. More out of relief than anything else. For, the cans were sealed containers of maple syrup.

The very maple syrup the Canadian province of Quebec, from where our dear Jean hails from, is famous for. In fact, Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup, accounting for about 70% of global maple syrup production. And all that Jean intended to do was to gift maple syrup to our hosts, the German Federal Foreign Office. If only the security personnel knew it. What followed was a session of giggles with Jean pointing to the label that read ‘Maple Syrup’ before sprinting to catch the plane, and to relate the story to us.

Well, on the last day of our week-long stay in Germany, when Jean told us he had “something” for us, we lost no time in telling him, “Hope it’s not maple syrup.”

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