The Cunning Smuggler
You may suppose that national borders are nothing to get excited about. However, Canada and the United States are very proud of theirs. These two countries share a common border that runs for thousands of kilometers, with not a single soldier along the way. Still, although there are no soldiers at the border, there are customs officers. Sometimes trucks try to cross the border with hidden drugs. Sometimes, moreover, ordinary tourists attempt to smuggle an extra bottle of alcohol. There is no difference for the customs officers; to them, all smugglers are the same, big or small. Their job is to prevent anyone from taking goods across the border illegally.
Constant struggles between smugglers and customs officers have influenced our way of thinking about this matter. It may not be fair, but many people forget the valuable services the officers perform. When this happens, the conflict may seem funny, although the officers always take their job seriously. One such conflict is said to have occurred on the famous bridge at Niagara Falls. There was a truck driver who often crossed the border for his work. Every time he reached the bridge, he had to stop his truck. He always had to show the officers all his papers. Sometimes he would be obliged to wait a long time, and on occasion the officers even unloaded his entire truck! These delays annoyed him a lot, especially because he never carried any illegal items. The truck driver did not see why he should be bothered just because other people broke the law. For many years he put up with this nuisance, but he planned to get even. When he finally retired, he put his plan into effect.
Three or four days after the driver had made his last truck journey over the bridge, the officers saw him again. This time he had no truck; he was riding a bicycle! It was a beautiful racing bicycle. The truck driver was very fit. He rode quickly, making big circles in the parking lot near the border crossing. He made sure all the customs officers could see him. Then he presented himself at the border.
"Well, old friend," said one of the officers. "What can we do for you, now you are retired?"
"The same as before," he replied. "I'm going to the other side. Check my papers and let me pass."
Now it should be said that this bicycle had one unusual feature: on each handlebar the man had hung a bucket full of sand. This was a very strange thing to do! Of course, the officers noticed it immediately. One of them called the man over to him.
"You can go through," he said, "but first I'll have to check your cargo." He looked through all the sand, but there was nothing to be seen. A little disappointed, the officer sent the retired truck driver across the border.
The customs officers laughed among themselves at the driver's strange behavior. Then they forgot about him. But only an hour later, he was back. He wanted to return to his own side of the border. He was still riding a bicycle, and he still had the buckets of sand. Another officer checked the sand. Nothing again. The man rode home happily. And this same peculiar scene was acted out twice a day, every day, for more than a year. The customs officers tried everything. They put the sand in water, to see if something was mixed with it. Then they began searching the man's pockets every time he crossed. Finally, they even had the bicycle X-rayed, to find out if anything was hidden inside. Nothing was ever found. Most of the officers ended up believing that the truck driver was simply pulling their leg. They thought he was smuggling (走私) nothing, and just playing a joke on them.
However, one officer was never convinced. To him, there was surely a mystery in the man's behavior. He knew it; only, he could not figure it out. Because it was embarrassing to fail every time, he stopped checking the man when he crossed. But he watched him. And he was certain that one day he would understand.
Eventually the officer's retirement arrived, and he too stopped working. Unlike the truck driver, he did not take up riding a bicycle. Nevertheless, he stayed near the bridge. He liked fishing. Most afternoons he threw his line into the Niagara River not far from the post where he had worked all his life. At length, the inevitable happened. The man came riding along the river road to the place where the customs officer was fishing. He got off his bicycle. For a short time, both men looked out over the river towards the great bridge. Then the officer said, "All right. I give up. It's over now, anyway; so, you can tell me. What in the world were you smuggling in that sand?"
"Nothing at all," said the retired truck driver.
"You mean, you just did it to get on our nerves?"
"Not for a moment. I was smuggling all the time. But you were never clever enough to catch me."
"It's too much," exclaimed the officer. "I knew it! I knew it! But how did you hide your illegal goods?"
"Hide it? That's just the point, I didn't hide anything at all."
"Impossible! We checked everything. What were you smuggling?"