Your Papers Please!
The Dreaded Syndrome!
This has happened to me more times than I like to remember. It is the single most dreaded authoritarian command you just don’t ever want to hear. You’ve just crossed the border into this next banana republic country and you’re very anxious and tense because of all the scary stories you’ve recently heard about this place.
You really just want to turn yourself right around and go back to where, minutes before, you just came from, but it’s far too late for that or regrets. You are now caught between a rock and a hard place–in a no-man’s land of sorts–a damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario.
Your palms are wet, your armpits are soaked with sweat, your mouth is dry, your knees are knocking, your cheek is twitching, your eyes are darting, your face is fraught with guilt, and der Herr Comandante–actually a low-level functionary working his way up–is not only leering at you–but he is actually looking right THROUGH you!
You may be a smuggler or you may be completely innocent. Or you may be hiding something as innocuous as a white lie, or you cannot know or imagine what, even. YOU ARE GUILTY OF SOME THING! You know this, but you know not of what. Again, this is the one command that you and all other travelers fear with a passion and loathing, and now you just have to deal with it!
Whether innocent or guilty, YOU KNOW HE KNOWS! And, if there’s really nothing at all for him to know, you must realize this: he knows you know he knows, anyway! And you can be sure the he WILL FIND SOMETHING. You are sure he is operating on a well-developed sixth sense!
You’ve heard that perhaps you should slip him something, maybe a $10 bill inside your passport, or maybe just a $5 bill to grease his palms to ease his pain. But you know it’s wrong for him to expect something like this. And who knows, maybe you could land in jail for attempting a bribe, a far worse scenario than you ever expected.
[You’ve tried this once before with a cop who stopped you for a burnt-out taillight in New Jersey. You offered to buy tickets to the Firemen’s Pancake Breakfast. But you failed miserably at it. ]
He stood there silently and sternly for seemingly an eternity, and then he gave you a severe tongue lashing, how that bordered on being a felony.]
What to do? Attempting to bribe simply goes against your grain. It’s just not done in America (hah!). Call it being headstrong or self-righteous. You just won’t do it; you stand on circumstances. You later are told it was naive of you!
This is true and happens all the time. The difference between you, the tourist, and all the others–the more seasoned traveler-adventurer types?–is that, for some unknown reason, they always seem to just walk right on through without the least bit of a hassle, while you will waste dreadful hours of blatant, fearful bureaucratic threats, perpetual bickering and cowering, and finally, anyway, winding up forking over the ultimate, inevitable cash, baksheesh pay-off!
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