When we first arrived in London, we made a pact that we would not buy a bunch of stuff and then end up having to ship it all back home. Well, we managed to successfully go one for two. We’re not shipping stuff home. We weren’t quite as successful at the not buying things aspect.

Apparently, US Customs, or Homeland Security, or the US Agency For Obscure and Infuriating Regulations, have tightened up on shipping things back to the States. It used to be you’d shove a couple of boxes of Cuban cigars and a bottle or three of absinthe in a cardboard box, mark the outside to indicate that it contained souvenirs from exotic Caribbean locales and you were good. Or so I understand, not having done this myself because as I have been informed, it’s illegal. These days, however, shipping stuff home is a little more involved.

We went to FedEx (When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There Overnight, Can We Suggest Taking It Yourself and Sparing Us the Hassle?) to try and ship some of the overflow items home. Nowadays, you have to make a record of every single item you want to ship back to the US, including, for some obscure but no doubt Very Important Reason, listing every single individual item of clothing. When asked if this meant that we needed to make a separate entry for accessories, like: Sock, Ecru, Right, and Sock, Ecru, Left, there was a hurried whispered consultation between FedEx flunkies and a determination that it would be safer to do so. Otherwise FedEx, at the behest of the authorities (or just because it would be fun to do so) might be forced to dump your box of Socks, Undifferentiated, Color Not Noted, into the ocean from 35,000 feet, because the alternative is that the terrorists will win. Or possibly because the socks may have been made by non-union workers. It wasn’t clear.

There also seems to be separate forms for everything. Like food. You have some cans of exquisite goose fat that you bought in Europe? You have to fill out a separate form for that. Books, and not even dangerous, subversive books that are banned in Boston, those need a separate form, too. We decided not to ask about the My Little Pony video games, since video games, according to things we’ve read while we’ve been away from the US of A, are the one of the primary factors in gun violence as opposed to, well, guns.

So we are carrying everything home. You know those extended family groups you see at the airport that are taking with them everything that they own as they return to the Philippines, or Des Moines, packed into cardboard boxes with five hundred yards of packing tape holding them all together? That will be us. Only with less cardboard and more ripstop nylon.

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