Sneaking eggs across the border: an Easter story

At last! American kids can experience the wonder that is the Kinder Egg

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For the past decade, the Transportation Security Administration has banned pocket knives from airplanes. I am not really sure who even owns pocketknives but I imagine this ban had crippled the ability to transport the entire Swiss Army, which was probably forced to travel by automobile for the past 10-plus years.

Recently, however, the TSA lifted restrictions on pocket knives, golf clubs and hockey sticks. This has been a controversial decision to the many people who feel unsafe flying with golfers and Canadians.

Others have applauded lifting the ban on pocket knives, which will open up the airways to the tens of people who like to whittle on planes.

At the core of these bans are questions about the balance of our freedoms, rights and safety. How much are we willing to tolerate to feel secure? Knives are apparently not a threat any longer, but shoe bombs, toothpaste and most hair gels are.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the safety of America is the notorious Kinder Egg. For those of you who have not had the unadulterated joy of this European delicacy, allow me to describe it to you.

The Kinder Egg is a toy in a capsule, which is further encapsulated in a hollow blend of white and milk chocolates in the shape of an egg. This miracle of merged marketing combines the two greatest things about being a kid -- chocolate and a toy. The toys are considered collectible among adults and kids alike, and the chocolate is delicious!

The Kinder Egg or Kinder Surprise is popular the world over but it is banned in the United States due to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act which forbids the sale of any candy that has a toy imbedded in it. This commonsense law was put into place because apparently American children are much dumber than their European counterparts and have a tendency to eat toys. The U.S. government's job is to protect us from our own incredible stupidity. Thus, anything dangerous to stupid people must have warnings or be prohibited. Happy Meals have warnings, coffee cups have warnings, and yet, inexplicably, the Kardashians do not.

The official fine for each Kinder Egg you attempt to bring into America is $2,500, and 60,000 Kinder Eggs are confiscated each year by those trying to smuggle them across the border from Canada and abroad.

I know this because I was a Kinder Egg runner.

It all began when I started running Pez dispensers across the borders in the late 1980s. Before the dawn of the Internet, Pez collectors did not have access to the exclusive European Pez designs, which included many Disney characters not released in the United States but available in Canada.

I found that I could take several cases of American designs such as superheroes and I could trade them for the "European Pez" and then resell them for a high profit at local toy conventions and comic cons. It was on one of these incursions as a Pez mule that I discovered Kinder Eggs!

I also soon discovered that while transporting Pez across the border was merely frowned upon, transporting Kinder Eggs was explicitly prohibited by law!

The first time I tried to bring Kinder Eggs into the United States from Canada, I had 12 and they were all confiscated. I am pretty sure the drug-sniffing dog just liked chocolate more than illicit drugs and sniffed me out while letting Tony Soprano stroll through security with two duffle bags full of cocaine.

The loss of a dozen eggs was a hard lesson learned and $12 lost. Although this was 1989 Canada, so more like $4 lost in U.S. money.

I would make the occasional trip to Canada and would, more often than not, get my beloved Kinder Eggs across the border. But after 9/11, the world changed. The terror attacks of that day affected us all and left deep emotional scars. And I could no longer get Kinder Eggs. These dangerous chocolates would have to be stopped!

On my last visit to Europe I couldn't resist the urge to try bringing two boxes, a total of 24 Kinder Eggs, into the United States. I would brazenly take the eggs on board in my carry-on and, if apprehended, feign ignorance!

I made it out of Europe without incident, but as I went through customs in New York my Kinder Eggs were discovered. I feigned ignorance -- to no avail!

I begged and pleaded that I just wanted the toys for my children (a lie, I had no intention of sharing). Finally they showed pity on me and allowed me to transport the toys into the United States provided that I eat all the chocolate off the egg casings. That would be 24 large chocolate eggs.

I complied and ate them all on site, much to the amusement of the gathered security guards. My humiliation complete and path to diabetes begun, I gathered up my chocolate-less toys and headed homeward, knowing somewhere that Wilfred Brimley was weeping.

As Easter approaches, I can't help but think of the millions of American children who every year miss out on the joy of Kinder Eggs. I imagine the Easter Bunny being waterboarded at an undisclosed location and accused of being an egg-stremist.

But this Easter, there is hope. As joyous throngs of NASCAR fans board planes with pocket knives and wood in hand to sculpt a bust of Dale Earnhardt, the joyless children of America may at last experience the Kinder Egg.

While our government has not lifted the ban on Kinder Eggs, an enterprising candy distributor in New Jersey has redesigned the chocolate casing. Candy Treasure LLC has devised a method of dividing the chocolate capsule so that even a small child, a complete moron, or for that matter a member of Congress, can clearly see that there is a toy inside and that they should not eat it.

The newly redesigned eggs, under the brand name Choco Eggs, are available in the United States for Easter for the very first time! I already ordered a full case of 98. Not because I am a toy and chocolate addict, but because it is my duty as an American to exercise my freedom! To exercise my rights! To exercise off the 20 pounds of fat I am going to gain from eating all that damn chocolate.

opinion_commentary

Joe Wos is a cartoonist and executive director and founder of the ToonSeum, Pittsburgh's Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art.


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