Brewer's Droop #222
WE DON’T WANT YOUR TYPE HERE
I noticed recently that a few tourists have not been allowed into South Africa because they didn’t have “two blank empty pages facing each other” in their passports.
One was a couple from the USA. They’d been travelling for God knows how long, probably had pockets bulging with dollars they were itching to spend, and they were turned away by some bureaucrat who probably didn’t know where America is.
Is this some kind of death wish our Department of Home Affairs has about tourism? Do they train these people to be as rude as possible and refuse entry to as many as they can? Maybe they’re even on some kind of incentive scheme to see who can annoy the most tourists?
I mean, where on earth is the danger in having a passport that’s almost full with visas and stamps? Is this some kind of diabolical weapon we’re not yet privy to?
I did some checking and, as far as I can see, this is happening to dozens, if not hundreds, of tourists!
I’ve been through a number of customs checks in different countries and, apart from one really nasty bastard in Miami, our lot seem actually eager to be as offensive as possible.
A couple of years ago I came through customs at Cape Town International and was stopped (as was everybody – the backlog was horrific) by a keen looking young man who politely asked if I would open my briefcase.
I smiled and said it would be no problem at all (and praying like hell he didn’t look in my suit bag because I was smuggling in a serious number of cigars).
He pounced (I use the word literally) on my laptop and demanded to know where my “exit document” was.
I explained that when I’d left, that counter wasn’t open (I always get to airports early you see) and, once through security, I couldn’t get back later. I apologised profusely.
“How do I know you didn’t buy this in London and are smuggling it in to avoid duty?” which was a fair question I guess, so I answered “well, you can clearly see it’s quite an old computer for a start, and if I switch it on I can show you files and emails that were created way before I left.”
I could tell he didn’t like this answer and wasn’t quite sure what to do next while he glowered at me.
Finally he announced “this isn’t a race thing you know!”
“I told you, it’s not because you’re a white man.”
“The idea never occurred to me (seriously, it really hadn’t) and I have no doubt whatsoever that you’re just doing your job.” But it shook me up quite a bit.
Finally he pointed at me, wagging his finger, and said “don’t do this again” and turned his attention on the group behind me.
As I was puffing thoughtfully on my smuggled Cuban later and enjoying a snifter of Cognac (also contraband) I thought back to the first time I landed in Sydney and the lady there saying “welcome to Australia – have a lovely stay.”
HOW TO BEAT THE SCANNER
Another interesting thing that happened to me at Cape Town airport recently (actually it was more embarrassing than interesting I’d say) was when I went through security.
I put all the metal things in the tray and wasn’t carrying anything illegal.
When I walked through the scanner it “pinged” and I explained that it was the metal bits on my braces that had set it off and I fully expected to be searched.
“Zip” said the security guard.
“I beg your pardon?”
“No, no, it’s my braces. I can take them off and walk through again but my trousers will fall down.”
He shook his head and repeated “zip”.
His colleague, a robust lady, took a step backwards and I thought maybe he’d said “zap” and I was going to get tazered for wearing braces.
So I said “I’m very sorry but I don’t understand what you mean.”
He then said “your fly zip is undone” and pointed.
I don’t embarrass easily but I think I came close to blushing.
The other thing that crossed my mind was how long had it been lowered? All morning? Anyway, he could see I had nothing worthwhile to declare so he waved me through.
So here’s another tip – if you want to smuggle something metallic through a scanner, just make sure your zip’s undone then they’ll ignore everything else.
MediaShop tweeted that the “Oscar Channel” is peaking at 190,000 viewers (that puts it up there with Grey’s Anatomy) so you’d think DSTV would be thrilled – but there’s apparently not a lot of advertising and brands are “steering well clear”.
Beware the Ides of March (on Saturday – so keep away from anyone called Julius – or Caesar).
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