On the airplane I was given a customs declaration form to fill out and present to officials when I landed in San Francisco. When I got to the bottom and it asked me the total value of the items I was bringing back, I blanked. I hadn’t bothered to itemize the things I’d bought to bring back to America, and I wasn’t sure how much they cost altogether. I decided to put “$500” as an arbitrary but safe, all-encompassing number.
When I got to the customs official, he looked at my form.
“Austria, huh?” he said, glancing at what I’d filled out.
“What were you doing there?”
“Cool. What did you study, European history?”
“German and music. I’m a pianist.”
“Cool. $500 worth of stuff, huh?”
“What did you bring back?”
At this point I completely could not remember what I possibly could have spent a hypothetical $500 on. The first thing I could think of was the pile of Mozartkugeln in my suitcase.
“Yeah…and souvenirs and stuff.”
“Okay…here you go,” he said, handing my customs form back to me.
I took my form and headed to baggage claims, thinking that to the customs official, I was going to be known as That Girl Who Went to Austria and Came Back With $500 Worth of Candy.
Thinking back, the majority of that $500 is actually probably sheet music.