It was a bit before midnight, and I had just cleared Perth customs on my return journey to Hong Kong. I passed through the metal detector, but my overnight bag was detained in the x-ray machine for enough time to make me start feeling a wee bit nervous. Had I removed my contact solution from the toiletries bag? Was there a rogue pair of nail clipping scissors in a side pocket I had forgotten about? A stocky guard then unzipped my bag, rummaged through it, and triumphantly produced my jar of Vegemite. "You're not allowed to take this on the plane." he told me.
"But it's just Vegemite." I stated in shock. "It's not a liquid."
"Nope...sorry...it's not allowed on the flight."
My argumentative nature that Mr Baxter so deplored in high school reared its ugly head. "Can you show me a list of which items are forbidden?" I asked.
The guard left and returned with a pamphlet specifying all items that are currently not allowed onto international flights. With his fat finger he skimmed down the list...drinks, jams, sauces, yoghurts, soups, liquid cosmetics, etc...
"It doesn't say anything about Vegemite!" I pointed out, by this time feeling slightly embarrassed by all the people rubber-necking to see with what exotic drug I'd been trying to flee the country.
"Vegemite is classed as a liquid-based food product." he said. "You're not allowed to take it onto the plane."
And that was when the dam burst. My mouth started quivering and tears poured down my cheeks. The guard stared horrified and helpless as I stood there weeping uncontrollably.
"I'm not crying about the Vegemite," I tried to explain through my hiccuping sobs, "I just came back to Australia for a funeral and I'm a bit fragile, that's all."
"Maybe it's not too late for you to check the jar through with your luggage." The man suggested quickly. He then showed me how to slip back past the customs counters.
I explained to another airport official what I intended doing as I wiped away the tears. "They didn't allow you to take the Vegemite?" he asked incredulously. "That's so un-Australian!" I surrendered my passport to him, promising to hurry back within five minutes lest I miss my flight. I raced down the escalator to the Cathay check-in counter where a kind female worker directed me to the conveyor belt for fragile items. Praying the glass wouldn't shatter during the flight, I left the Vegemite jar there wrapped in my jumper in a bag and rushed back through customs again, picking up my passport on the way. I zoomed past the x-ray machine heading for my departure gate when a loud voice said, "Excuse me, Madam!"
It was another airport official targeting me for an explosives search.
This was the product I wanted to take back to Hong Kong. It's Vegemite mixed with cream cheese for a smoother, more spreadable consistency on bread or toast. (I sound like a TV ad, don't I?) The new Vegemite had just landed on supermarket shelves when we left Perth in August 2009, so we hadn't been able to taste it. Apparently the product will not be called iSnack 2.0 as the name was not well received by the public when it was announced. Its new name is Vegemite Cheesybites, after another round of polling. However, I think I preferred some of the other creative suggestions...Supermite, Mightymite, Cheesymite, Aussiemite/Ozimite, Superbite, Mightybite, Wondermite, Spreadgemite, Vegipoo, Excrimite, iMight, Ya-Mum-Mite”, “Voldymite” (the name that must not be named), I Just Mite, Vegemite-not, Kangamite, Vegelite, Vegesmooth, Moomite and Velvetmite.
Does your family like the stuff?