Mother Russia

, , , , , | Related | December 17, 2018

(I have been on holiday with my parents in Russia. We are now catching our flight home so obviously, we have to pass through border control. Although I am in my late twenties, I am baby-faced and quite short, and I dress very casually. A number of people we’ve met have assumed I am around 14 to 16, something we’ve found quite amusing. Until…)

Border control: “Passport.”

(I go first and hand over my passport. The officer looks at me, at my passport, and back at me. He frowns. He looks at my other documents and back at me, and then frowns again. He then reaches for a magnifying glass and begins to inspect my documents page by page, occasionally pausing to stare at me. My father goes through in about thirty seconds. My mother goes through after a minute or so, as she has to answer a few questions. I wait. And wait. And wait. After about five minutes, I see my parents poking their heads around to see if they’ve lost me. Another minute or two later, and I’m finally allowed through.)

Mum: “We thought we’d never see you again!”

Dad: “Come on, delinquent.”

Me: “Was it just me or did he keep me there for a really long time? I got really nervous; I thought he was never going to let me through.”

Dad: “Did he ask you any questions?”

Me: “No. I thought maybe he might ask me to take my glasses off, but…”

Mum: “You realise he thought your documents were fake, right? I could tell when I was stood next to you. He couldn’t put the teenage girl in front of him together with the 27-year-old woman your documents suggested you were.”

Me: “I have no idea. But at one point, someone else came into the booth and I thought, oh, God, I’m about to be arrested at Russian border control. But the other guy just wanted to unlock something.”

Mum: “You thought you were going to be arrested? He saw you with us. I was waiting for them to arrest us for child trafficking and was debating making a run for it.”

Me: “Thanks.”

Makes You Wonder If You Even Know Your Cousin At All

, , , , , | Friendly | December 16, 2018

(My cousin who’s working in China calls me.)

Cousin: “Hey, cuz, my debit card doesn’t work in China. Could you please buy me a ticket to fly back from Hong Kong to Singapore and I’ll pay you back later?”

Me: “Sure, just give me your passport number.”

(Since everybody calls him by his English name, I buy a ticket for Jon [Surname] without thinking about it. On the day of his flight, I get a frantic call from the Hong Kong airport.)

Cousin: “I’m having a problem checking in. My ticket says Jon [Surname].”

Me: “So?”

Cousin: “My passport says [Surname] [Chinese name].”

Me: “Dude, how was I supposed to know Jon isn’t your legal name? I didn’t even know your Chinese name!”

(Fortunately, he managed to convince the airline staff that he was the same person, and at least the passport number matched.)

A Worldview So Narrow It Looks Like A Chopstick

, , , , | Friendly | December 14, 2018

My university classmate tells me this story. She’s eating in a restaurant at a Chinese airport and has been using a fork instead of chopsticks. Nearby are an older Chinese woman and her adult daughter, who are mocking her in Mandarin about it, talking about how white people are too clumsy to be able to use chopsticks.

My classmate, who has lived in China and had years of Mandarin lessons through her military career, turns to them and says politely in their language that normally she can use chopsticks just fine, but she injured her dominant wrist and can’t manage it right now.

The daughter is embarrassed as h*** and falls over herself apologizing. The mother, however, silently freaks out. She refuses to speak to or even look at my classmate, and seems to be pretending that she doesn’t exist. The daughter apologizes again, saying a white woman speaking Mandarin is too big of a shock for her. She explains that it’s so far out of her worldview that she honestly can’t accept it.

Throughout their conversation, the mother continues to stare into the middle distance and pretend she can’t hear them, rather than confront the mind-shattering idea that people who don’t look like you are capable of learning your language.

We Are All Citizens Of The World

, , , , | Hopeless | December 10, 2018

Recently my wife and I were flying from Vienna to Bucharest. Seated with us was a young woman from Canada whose flight to Toronto the previous day had been canceled. She was being rerouted via Romania, and she had a tight connection.

When we landed, she worked her way through the crowd as quickly as possible and disappeared ahead of us. We passed a door for connecting flights and assumed she went there, but when we got to passport control she was in the non-citizen line about twelve places back. She told us she’d tried to go to her connecting flight but was redirected here. The line was moving glacially and she would never make her new flight. Frustrated, she began to cry, and my wife and I tried to comfort her.

Then, a woman in the line for citizens noticed what was going on and walked over. She intuited what was happening and went to the front of our line. With gestures, she convinced the people at the head of the line to let the young woman and another man in an identical situation to go next.

When the official at passport control heard their story she left her booth and lead them to the area behind it, where she found someone to take them to their plane. Since there was still close to thirty minutes left, I believe they made the flight.

You Shall Not Boarding Pass!

, , , , , , | Working | December 5, 2018

(My husband, daughters, and I are preparing to leave for our first trip to Disney World, so we’re all very excited. I have a somewhat unusual name. For clarity’s sake, let’s say that my full legal name is “Penelope Piggott-Montmorency,” but I always go by “Penny.” We’re Canadian, so we need passports to fly.)

Employee: *checking my boarding pass and passport* “Did you know that your boarding pass says, ‘Penny,’ but your passport says, ‘Penelope’?”

Me: “Oh, I always go by ‘Penny,’ so that’s what I put when I was booking our flights. Is that a problem?”

Employee: “Um, yes. Don’t you remember the airline website telling you that you have to use the same name as the one on your passport?”

Me: “Oh, boy, you’re right. I totally forgot.”

Employee: *continues to hang on to my documents* “I’m thinking seriously about not letting you get on the plane.”

Me: “What?!” *my kids start to cry* “But we’re going to Disney World! Is there anything I can do? I didn’t mean to use the wrong name! And you can see that the photo in the passport is definitely me.”

Employee: *smirks* “Rules are there for a reason, ma’am.”

(Just then, another airport employee joins us.)

Employee #2: “What’s the problem here?”

Employee: “She’s trying to board with a boarding pass that has a different name from her passport.”

Employee #2: *glances at documents* “You must be kidding. How many ‘Penny/Penelope Piggott-Montmorencys’ do you think the world has? Especially ones whose pictures match the woman standing in front of you? Let her and her family on the d*** plane.” *to me* “Enjoy your trip, ma’am. But next time, make sure you book your flight with the name ‘Penelope,’ just to avoid this kind of hassle again.” *glares at colleague*

(Ever since then, I’ve used my full legal name every time I fly, even when it’s domestic.)

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