Abdul, a young Syrian man (not his real name) was trying, once more, to escape the Syrian civil war. He had made seventeen previous attempts to sneak into the U.K. and failed seventeen times. He learned from his mistakes every time he failed, but no two attempts were identical. There was always something unexpected that foiled his plans. He figured by now he had experienced it all. The eighteenth attempt would surely be a success.
Abdul, six other men, and an experienced smuggler all gathered at a truck stop outside of the small village of Coquelles, France. Earlier this evening truck drivers had pulled in, parked their loaded rigs, and settled down for the night, sleeping in their cabs. In the morning, some of these drivers would be delivering their trailers to the train station loading dock where they would be loaded onto flat cars. The freight train would then transport the trailers the rest of the way to England by way of the Channel Tunnel. This routine never changed and that made the smuggler’s job easy.
The smuggler, a Kurdish man, originally from Iraq, had been organizing these refugee operations for years and knew that tanker trucks were never x-rayed for stowaways. So he checked the tanker trucks for their destination stickers and identified a tanker that was destined for the U.K. The smuggler, Abdul, and the six other men quietly approached the tanker so as not wake the driver.
First, the smuggler climbed the ladder to the top of the tank and used a bolt cutter to remove the padlock on the hatch. Then he signaled for the refugees to climb to the top of the tank. The contents of the tanker were not identified. If it turned out to be something dangerous or toxic, they hoped it would be obvious before they ventured inside.
The moment the hatch was opened a familiar aroma permeated the cold night air. Chocolate! Seven men were going to sneak into the UK in a tank of liquid chocolate. It was near freezing that night, so as they climbed down into the warm chocolate it felt great, like a chocolate hot tub. The smuggler then closed the hatch, leaving a little gap so they could breathe and eventually escape.
Abdul stands 6 feet tall, but he still couldn’t touch the bottom of the tank with his feet. They were all holding on to the rim of the hatch with one hand. If anyone had lost their grip and gone under, the others would not have been able to rescue the fallen man.
It didn’t take long for the men to realize the chocolate was becoming uncomfortably hot. The heat was actuallly becoming unbearable. The seven men could do nothing else but cling to the hatch rim in a tight circle, submerged in chocolate up to their necks. They had to keep moving their legs to keep from getting totally trapped in the heavy chocolate.
They naturally began to consider their dilemma. The trip to the train should take no more than 30 minutes. Once they had passed the checkpoints they would be able to escape their chocolate prison. Unfortunately, the truck wasn’t moving. They had now been in chocolate limbo for more than two hours. The men were careful to remain quiet, but under their breaths they cursed the smuggler for putting them in this, now precarious, situation.
Some of the men wanted to give up and escape the chocolate. But Abdul wanted to stay with the original plan. Seventeen attempts under his belt—would he never complete his personal pilgrimage? He felt so close to freedom that he could taste it (and it tasted like chocolate). If just one of them left, all of them would have to leave. Whoever left would leave a trail of chocolate all down the side of the tanker. Anyone staying behind would be discovered, for sure.
The situation was not getting any better. In fact it was becoming serious and two of the men started to cry. In the end it was unanimous. It was time to leave while they still had the cover of dark. The chocolate was heavy and slippery. It was almost like a game of tug-o-war. It took the entire group to help push or pull each man, one at a time through the hatch. The last guy struggled the most. It was difficult to extract against the pull of the chocolate. He finally had to kick off his shoes and allow them to drop to the bottom of the tank.
All seven men, exhausted, but safely extracted from that unforgiving chocolate, began the long, cold, hike to their tent hidden deep in the nearby woods. They were covered head to toe in chocolate and as they walked, they left seven sets of chocolate foot prints, one of them shoeless. In the frigid night air the gooey chocolate hardened and cracked on their clothes and skin. They chipped off pieces and ate the chocolate. They all agreed, it was very good chocolate.
Abdul did eventually make his way to the U.K. He avoided tankers and instead stowed away on a trailer loaded with new truck cabs. He found one that was unlocked and hid inside. He was granted asylum in the U.K. and found a job at an Arabic restaurant in Sheffield.
To this very day, whenever Abdul gets a whiff of chocolate, it reminds him of that cold winter night when he and six other grown men nearly experienced Death By Chocolate!