It was no mistake -- my name had been called over the intercom in the Guayaquil airport. I rushed to ask a cashier at the Duty Free shop to ask what was said, since I couldn't decipher any of the Spanish that followed my name. She didn't speak English, but pointed me on a wild goose chase to Gate 7, Gate 11, and then through an unmarked door and down three windowless flights of concrete steps to a room full of policemen little old ladies with their belongings spread across metal tables.
I'd been randomly selected for the narcotics check, and waited in line while I watched men in bright orange vests use box cutters to cut through the layers of plastic almost everyone but I had wrapped their suitcases in. One women was carrying mostly underwear and inexplicably, 6 bottles of beer in her suitcase. I watched a gray-haired lady pass plastic bag after plastic bag from her checked luggage to the policeman, who sniffed each one. Another woman in front of me had six lumpy objects completely obscured in layers of packing tape. Her officer procured a long wooden skewer, which he used to stab each bundle, smelling the end of it before further investigating with the box cutter.
Somewhere a dog was barking, but it almost sounded like it was recorded and piped in from the ceiling. The room was surrounded with mirrored glass, so we could watch our belongings picked through and smelled in reflection everywhere we looked, in windows that also showed the men loading bags on a conveyor belt outside the room.
My inspection didn't last long. Compared to the beer and the packing tape bundles, my dirty clothes weren't of much interest. But I was relieved I wasn't carrying anything weirder than a snorkel.
Now, even more motivation to learn Spanish in Guatemala in February. Not that being able to understand "please report to Narcotics" would have saved me much panic!