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Is that an eggplant in your pants?

I was reminded recently of an old friend of mine who once tried to steal a pork tenderloin from a grocery store in Aspen by stuffing it down his pants. He was nearly out the door when one of the store’s clerks tapped him on the shoulder to let him know he had dropped his hat. So nervous was my friend over his little crime spree that he immediately blurted out, “It’s in my pants!” despite the fact that he hadn’t been accused of anything.

I can just imagine the clerk’s surprise when this man he was only trying to help then reached down his jeans and pulled out the pilfered meat. It’s probably the sort of thing grocery store clerks don’t encounter too often, even in Aspen. I’m guessing any women who witnessed the event were sorely disappointed, too, like I used to be in high school when I’d finally convince a well-endowed girl to take off her bra, and two pounds of tissue paper would come with it.

After the whole tenderloin affair, which I pray didn’t end with the pork back on the shelf, we had a bevy of questions for my friend. Why a pork tenderloin? Why not something that doesn’t require cooking? Wasn’t that thing cold against your crotch? And, of course, what the hell were you thinking?

As is typically the case in incidents such as this, the answer was the same for all the questions: It was 2 in the morning and my friend was drunk, simple as that. I remember us all nodding as he explained that to us, and I think I may have actually said, “Yeah, I can see it.”

Less clear, however, are the motives of a man arrested in Australia earlier this week after getting off a flight from Dubai to Melbourne. The man was detained at the airport after Australian customs officials discovered two live pigeons stuffed down his trousers. The birds apparently were wrapped in padded envelopes and held to the man’s calves by a pair of tights under his pants.

Authorities also discovered two eggs stashed in a vitamin container in the man’s luggage and a number of seeds in the man’s money belt. Best of all, though, was that they found what a BBC News report described as “an undeclared aubergine” with the man’s belongings. That’s sort of a fancy way of saying that the man was in possession of an illegal eggplant.

So now, as I did all those years ago, I find myself pondering a number of questions about the pigeon incident. Why pigeons? Why not a bird that isn’t a flying rat? Don’t they already have pigeons in Australia, not to mention eggplants? And, of course, weren’t your legs covered with turd by the end of the flight?

I’m assuming the man in question can’t use the excuse that he was drunk and it was 2 in the morning, considering the effort he put into the caper. But if ever there was someone who could plead insanity, this has to be the guy.

I’m not saying he’s crazy because he had something stuffed down his pants. Lots of sane drug smugglers and pork-stealing drunks do that. Hell, I myself am routinely asked if that’s a zucchini down my pants, when, in fact, it’s actually just a large yellow squash. Stuffing things down one’s pants is practically standard practice.

The pigeon man, though, seems to have taken things a few steps beyond what most folks would deem normal. Maybe I could understand if he were smuggling parakeets or cockatiels or some sort of pet bird. Who among us hasn’t smuggled those in their pants? But these were pigeons, among the lowliest birds on the planet. Why on Earth would someone want to transport pigeons to a different country?

Likewise, I could also maybe understand if the man was in his 70’s or 80’s and his brain had turned to mush, but the pigeon guy is only 23 years old. How could he not be stark raving mad?

I say this because the pigeon man is going to need all the legal help he can get. The maximum sentence for wildlife smuggling in Australia is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine equal to about $70,480. But if Dan White can get away with murdering Harvey Milk and the mayor of San Francisco because eating Twinkies made him insane, surely a man smuggling pigeons and eggplant can get away with anything.

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Todd Hartley

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02 2009

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