What is This Supposed To Be?


A previous post detailed the bureaucratic difficulties of dealing with the Australian Customs in Perth when something unusual comes in. Here’s the second part…

I used to collect 1:1200 scale model ships. Comet, Wiking, Triang, Degen, etc. Hobbyists who do the same thing know the names and the beautiful little whitemetal models that can be bought. Some are unpainted kits, some are complete. For a fan of miniature worlds, they are like looking at jewels. Delightful.

To help making harbour scenes, some manufacturers made accessories like docks, cranes, warehouses, lighthouses, etc. One firm made a 1:1250 scale model of the Statue of Liberty in plastic resin – all painted up and ready to display. I saw it in a catalogue and fell in love – and ordered one.

When it hit Perth, it was not passed through to me as a matter of course. I was called in to the Perth Customs House to justify receiving it. The female jobsworth who dealt with me at the counter put the parcel in front of me and ordered me to open it. I did, cutting off the tape and brown paper, and eventually opening the box and putting the star-shaped pedestal and the statue onto the counter in front of her. Beautiful little model, correct in every detail.

She picked it up, turned it slowly in front of her and asked ” What is this supposed to be ? ”

She literally had no idea what the Statue of Liberty was.

I’m a quick thinker. I realised I was dealing with a very special kind of stupid. I did not laugh. I adjusted my voice to gentle explanation mark 4 and gave a potted description of the statue in NY harbour, my hobby collection, and the role it was destined to play.

It was passed…albeit with a sense that I was probably trying to do something illegal or immoral but would be tolerated as it was close to afternoon tea-time…and I escaped with the model. Liberty indeed. Liberty from something that is really very frightening.

It begs the question: How many other people have had to explain the world to the staff…?


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