Smuggling Has It’s Perks, if You Don’t Mind (Occasionally) Looking Down the Barrel of a Beretta

At one time or another, everyone has a really bad day. You’re cut off in traffic by some cell phone jabbering idiot and go spinning across two lanes of interstate traffic, landing upside down on the median. Or you become a victim of identity theft and suddenly don’t have enough credit to buy a grilled cheese sandwich. Or you have an invective-spewing, words-that-can-never-be-taken-back, argument with your boss. God awful? No doubt about it.

But not even in my top 10.
Here’s a bad day for a drug smuggler:

I’m in the Florida Keys. It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I’m sitting in a van, third in line, ready to back up to a private boat dock to load up with pot and then deliver it to a connection in Wisconsin. This is my first big-time experience with pot. I’m terrified, but if Albert Einstein is right and “the only source of knowledge is experience,” I figure I’m queuing up for a shitload of knowledge. I watch as the first two trucks back into position and quickly leave after getting something thrown into their vehicles. Now, it’s my turn.

I back in, and someone immediately opens the side door of my van and throws in what looks like a huge sack of ice. Ice? Are we smuggling to contraband Slurpee dealers? Once five vans are loaded, we’re told to head out, drive around for a while and come back, which I assume must be some kind of practice run.

The house is enormous, like a mansion, and is set way back at the end of a cul-de-sac, only accessed by entering through a gate with a large arch over it and then driving to the end of a long straight driveway. We start our vehicles and begin to head towards the arch, but get only 30 feet before gigantic bright lights blast down on us. A parade of at least a dozen law enforcement vehicles comes barreling down on us, like we’re part of a movie set.

The first vehicles through are army jeeps with men hanging from them, all wearing fatigues and with grenades on their hips. Any minute I expect someone to bellow into a megaphone, “Cue the Marines!” It’s a regular smorgasbord of law enforcement groups – Florida State Patrol, local police forces and some guys in plain clothes – all trying to call the shots.

If time seems to slow down in a crisis, I am definitely in a crisis. As if in slow motion, these hyped-up lawmen now seem to glide all over the place, screaming through bullhorns that this is a drug bust and that everyone has to stay exactly where they are. No problem. I ain’t going anywhere.

I stare dumbfounded as the guys in the vans ahead of me are pulled out of their vehicles and thrown to the ground by machine gun wielding cops. My turn’s next. I hope they’ll be more considerate to a nice Jewish Canadian boy like me. But it seems these are equal opportunity jackboots. My door is flung open, and I’m jerked out by one arm and whipped up against the side of the van head first, with a vice-like grip on the back of my neck and an automatic weapon pressed against my back.

“Do you have any guns, knives or bombs?” he asks, “No,” I reply. It turns out that this is a rhetorical question, because he checks anyway. When he doesn’t find guns, knives or bombs, he shoves me to the ground and says, “Stay right there and don’t move, or you’ll most likely be shot.” Compelling argument

Whenever several different law enforcement agencies are involved at a crime scene, it can get very competitive, each of them vying for dominance. It can become a territorial thing, like dogs marking their territory by peeing. And we’re the territory they’re marking.

Usually the lawmen that have jurisdiction of the property associated with a crime have the lead role. In this case, it’s the local cops, led by a man who is by far the craziest of all the people I’ve known in the past two years. By comparison, he makes Officer Barbrady of South Park seem competent.

He has his 5-year-old boy with him on this major drug bust involving what was most likely assumed to be dangerous criminals (i.e. us). How screwed up is that? He immediately begins screaming his guts out at us, calling us scumbags and every other vile thing he can think of, seeming to put on a show for his son. He jams his gun to each of our heads, yelling that he will blow us away if we so much as scratch.

Meanwhile, the men in plain clothes, DEA I figure, are huddled off to the side, furiously talking. Within moments, they tell Officer Barbrady that the vans are filled with nothing but ice, and there isn’t a trace of pot in the house, not even a rolling paper.

He goes nuts, whipping his gun out and screaming at us again. Then, like a scene from the movie Deliverance, he thrusts his weapon into the hands of his 5-year-old kid and tells him to keep all of us scumbags who are sprawled on the ground covered and, if we move, to shoot us.

Welcome to Pot Smuggling 101.

Another bad day come and gone.

But smuggling wasn’t all bad days. If it were, I wouldn’t have lasted for fifteen years. Over that time, I traveled all over the world, to some of the most exotic spots on earth as well as to some of the most primitive.

I was a friend and associate of one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever known.
I met rock stars and celebrities. I’ve had adrenaline rushes that lasted for days.
And best of all, I’ve lived to tell about it.

The upshot? – I’ve had amazing experiences and enjoyed incredible luck in one of the most dangerous professions out there. Sometimes I think it was almost as if some invisible benefactor were traveling beside me, watching over me, keeping me safe.

Like providence. Or a guardian angel. Or maybe even Jesus.

Prologue to Smuggling With Jesus