Back in the 1980s, I was a very green software developer working for a large company that had offices all over the world. I was assigned the task of updating software and supplying training at one of our South American offices.
The country where this office was located was known not only for its dislike of Americans, but also for the very substandard accommodations where the government placed anyone it didn’t care for.
The day before I left I received a phone call from computer operations, the group responsible for hardware and operating system maintenance worldwide. They had heard I was traveling to the office. They informed me that it was "customary" for travelers to hand-carry items to foreign offices to reduce shipping time and expenses and told me to expect a package.
A few hours later, the largest, ugliest, yellowest, suitcase that ever screamed "SEARCH ME" was delivered to my office. I opened it and found a collection of uncommon computer parts that included a processor board for a FPS 190 array processor, several tape drive parts, some IBM 4341 memory, and the backplane to an IBM graphics terminal. I may have been green, but I knew trouble when I saw it.
I called my department head, who came to my office and examined the contents of the suitcase. He was appalled. He informed me that the government of the target country had a policy of building a domestic computer industry and strictly controlled the importation of computer equipment and that trying to bring this hardware into the country could get me thrown in jail. He promised to get me out this mess.
Shortly thereafter, he returned to my office, flushed from what was clearly a shouting match with top management (my department head had a legendary temper). He told me I was to take the suitcase, which I had now christened "Yellow Peril," with me. To help me out, he gave me two items. The first was a business card with contact information for a London-based international law firm. This firm had been instrumental in getting employees released from lockups all over the world. The second item was a piece of paper with Spanish written on it. My department head told me that if I got into trouble at customs, to try saying what was on the paper. As translating it was beyond my high school Spanish, my department head told me that it roughly said, "I am sorry but I don't understand your language. Please impound this case and I will have our local agent resolve the problem with you."
Flushed with all the confidence those two pieces of paper would give a kid from a small town traveling internationally for the first time, I left the next day.