With an hour left of our flight, my family of four converged in my parents' aisle with Alex and I shimmying in and annoying the rude gay sitting in the next row. According to my mother, we needed to agree on our "story."
Apparently upon his return to United States soil, my Uncle Bill was asked if he spent any time on a farm and/or had any contact with cows. Nervously and wisely, my uncle lied and said no.
It's important to understand traveling with my father as he's probably the most experienced traveler I've ever met and still, the man freaks out at every single travel checkpoint, each time his shaking hand passes over his passport. We can't figure out what he's hiding, what his real name is or what crimes his secret bastard children have committed. Any pause in the system and he gets a look of terror on his face, as if he's about to be caught and taken away forever.
No matter how many times we tell my dad to relax, that it's no big deal to smuggle parmesan back from Florence or handbags from Shanghai, he freaks out and refuses to go in the same Customs line with us. I'm serious. Dad takes one look at my North Fake stash and says, "See ya." Every time.
As a teenager, I'd take to pretending to be our family's illegal maid, Charo. "Deek, how come you no tell de man my namg? Why you always lie Deek? Is no nice." My mother eggs me on and my father threatens to disinherit me, but still, my dad has way too much reverence for international law. And my dad is adamant we not lie to the United States Customs Department.
The rest of us disagree.
Which is why we needed to work on our story.
"You guys!" My father hissed in the darkened airplane cabin. "What about that man that lied coming back from his honeymoon and brought SARS to ... basically, the planet?"
"We already got sick!" The three of us argued. "We'll be quarantined for no reason!" "It was just three or four cows and they seemed fine to me."
My mother looked at my father. "Dick, we're not going to get the planet sick because we spent a week in rural Ireland."
"I don't want to be Patient Zero." Alex offered.
And in a voice only a Spotswood could muster, I announced, "Screw 'em. If I'm going down, I'm taking everyone with me."
12 pairs of eyeballs nervously stared in our direction as my brother raced across the plane back to his seat, shaking his head in disgust.
I really need to work on my volume.
"Alright, alright. That was admittedly inappropriate." I whispered. "But we're still lying to Customs, right?"