“Sir, do you have an apple?”
She said, waving an apple in her hand in case I didn’t know an apple from an orange. She was wearing the frazzled but curt and serious expression worn by airport officials the world over. I resisted the urge to point to my headphones and say – just an ipod. My desire to avoid risks successfully beat the urge to be a wise ass – an urge which is normally irresistible for me. It had been a long flight, the food aboard had been bad, the seat awful – stuck between Neanderthal man who kept on elbow wrestling on the arm rest as though trying to prove his machismo, and gujju babe on the other side
Her colleague down the line had a similar expression, but was a lot cuter.
“Sir, can I see your documents?”
I handed them over.
“Please take your headphones off, while I speak to you.”
“What are you doing in Sydney for 10 days?”
I am here for training, I replied – I will be in training.
“For how long have you been working with xyz.com?”
Just over a month.
She scrawled something across the landing document.
ESP it read.
I wondered if this meant that I was above suspicion? Do I now get to avoid all the nosy questions? Or is her ESP telling her something? I thought it would have been better if she had written her phone no, or email id even. I continued, swaying to Mark and his buddies, listening to Dire Straits – Live at Sydney
The first guard took one look at the scribble on the card, and told me to step out of the line and ‘Follow that gentleman’.
Hmmm, I was nonplussed, on one hand I was stepping out of line which had some 300 people ahead of me, on the other hand I was thinking – did I or did not make that joke about the apple? Are they going to take me to a corner of a deserted field and shoot me in the back of my head? I knew that my big mouth would cause trouble one day.
So they took me to a counter, and the guy says something into his walkie – talkie. Apparently they were going to check my luggage. Remember the ballyhoo about Tendulkar’s shoes on India’s last tour down under? All this is to preserve the flora and fauna as Australia’s isolation places it in a unique position yada yada yada.
Fine, I thought, I am not carrying anything, so this shouldn’t take too long. But the guy didn’t start going through my bags. He waited. So did I.
And then cute lady from before comes upto the counter.
“Sir, I am going to check your bags. Can I have your passport?”
I hand it over.
“Do you have a letter regarding the training?”
Nopes, not carrying anything now.
“Are you carrying any sharp instruments?”
None, I said. Just my tongue, I thought.
She started pulling on those disposable plastic gloves, and I don’t know why but my head filled up with some disturbing images. Disturbing for you, if you ever find out what I was thinking of.
So she proceeds to go through the bags. The laptop backpack first. She stares at some credit card bills, trying to figure out if there was some code in that which would destabilise the Aus economy. They certainly turn my economy upside down but I am sure they Oz economy would survive a couple of my credit card bills. Strangely enough, I was in a fairly pleasant mood, after all this was a break from routine, and she was cute. Much better than being stuck in between Neanderthal man and Mrs Shah from Rajkot.
She finds a draft – payable to the American High Commission. Her eyebrows go through her lovely hair.
I explained – I have a visa interview on the 6th, and I am only getting back on the 5th so I am carrying this with me as I might not have time to pick it up from office.
“Why are you going to the States?”
For some more training.
“Why are you doing training here as well as there?”
Well, this is different training and that’s different training, I told her.
“Hmm, are you going to live there?”
No, I answered, I will be going back to India, I prefer living in India.
She comes across my visiting cards.
“So you are a manager now?”
I didn’t quite get what she meant. I joined as a manager – I explained. I refrained from making sarcastic comments about ‘now’.
“So where were you working before?”
I told her.
She shifts her attention to the larger travel bag. The combination lock jams, and I think this is where they drag me off. She tries, but no luck.
I smack it once and try again. Alleluia, it opens.
She starts taking all the clothes out.
I just met you, sweetheart, don’t you think its a little too soon for you to be putting your hand on my boxers? No, I didn’t say that either. But the thought kept me smiling.
She carefully checks the bag for false bottoms. More disturbing thoughts here.
She does a double take at the Davidoff, “That’s perfume?”
Yes, yes, perfume deo whatever. I am still in disturbing thoughts land.
“Can I have your wallet and cell phone?”
She takes out all the cards and starts rubbing them with a long stick with some sort of device attached to then end.
“Have you ever taken drugs?”
Never, ever I state firmly.
“Ok, you can put your clothes on”
No, no, she said “Ok, you can put your clothes in”
I chat some more about how to get to the hotel etc, and finally leave.
My dad always said I looked like a drug addict. I guess that explains everything.
Maybe she will do a bodysearch next time.