Don’t try this in the U.S.

The brain is a marvellous thing. It might remind you, say, that your passport expires on February 6th, 2012. That is certainly useful information, thank you, Brain. Might I suggest, however, that we work on the timing?

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, mind you, but perhaps there would have been a better occasion to remind me of this crucial fact than when I was sitting in a plane about to land in a foreign country in March 2012?

Admittedly, there could have been worse moments – when packing the night before, say, or in the taxi on the way to the airport. Also, I suppose the airline check-in lady could have noticed, or else the border control agent upon leaving Germany.

As it was, I spent a few very nervous minutes in the queue at Immigration Egypt. I was quite hopeful, at first, for all I could see was a lot of stamping going on. Maybe, I thought, they won’t look that closely. And they didn’t. But unfortunately, they had a scanner.

The agent had already returned my passport to me and started leafing through the Husband’s more unusual one when he registered that his scanner was beeping. He asked for my passport back and then looked at it for a long time. Then he looked at me, also for a long time. And I can’t be certain, of course, but I do think his expression read: “I could seriously ruin your day, lady. But I won’t.”

Egyptians I later talked to said that it would have been different “before Tahrir Square”* and I don’t doubt it. The country is still full of checkpoints manned by uniformed men with guns but they seem to just be sitting there now.

On the way back, the border agents marvelled for a moment at the fact that I had been let into their country with a clearly invalid passport and admonished me sternly to get it renewed (don’t worry, that’s my plan).

Back home, all I got was a “By the way, your passport is expired.” from a friendly German border agent. When I started to explain, he said: “Oh no worries, I just thought you’d like to know.” Indeed. And I will enter “renew passport” into my calendar for the year 2022 as well. No offense, Brain.

My favourite stamp from my old passport. It's supposed to show the fruit of the Coco de Mer, the Seychelles' famous endemic palm tree. But you're forgiven if that was not the first association that came to your mind.

*Clearly a watershed, much as East Germans divide their lives in a before (the wall fell) and an after.

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