As a reporter, I maintained a no-sweat policy at police stations. I refused to race into them, because it seemed unwise to arrive in a sweat, possibly raising suspicions that I was fresh from a bank heist, thereby triggering the police’s “arrest-and-detain” instincts. ***
But I did break into a sweat when my husband suggested that I go all on my own to the police station here in Switzerland to pick up our residency cards.
The last time I went there I was accompanied by a tri-lingual corporate agent and Dave, my hubby who everyone likes “on sight.”
Dave is the guy who strolled through Heathrow’s security detail without earning even a second-glance from the guards, meanwhile, I had to remove my shoes, which I admit that when the border official said, “your shoes” to me in that stern voice, I mistook her intention and replied, “Oh, do you like them? I got them in Canada – they’re Skechers. They’re great, although I really should have worn my Merrills cause they’re better for long hikes through airports.” Apparently, she was not interested in their retail history.
But I drift from my point, which is that I do not possess “on-sight likability,” making all ventures into police or foreign-government premises tricky business.
It is a serious handicap.
To prevent the dreaded sweat-syndrome, I dressed in extremely light summer clothing, such that by the time I made the walk to the police station in the brisk morning air, I could no longer feel my hands. Excellent.
However, I arrived 15 minutes before opening so I settled down on an inside staircase with a book, not realizing that sunlight was pouring in through a window above me. Within minutes, the sun’s amplified warmth, coupled with an anxiety-related hot-flash did its work. I was mopping my brow when the police station door opened.
I mumbled my way through in French, whereupon the clerk informed me I belonged in the office one-flight-up. Upstairs, the second clerk looked at me with a deadpan-bordering-on-openly-hostile expression. I knew my unlikability-ness was oozing into the room, but there was nothing I could do about it. She sent me to the back of the line to wait for the only English-speaking clerk.
I panicked and phoned Dave, in the hopes that I could absorb some of his charm via the wireless. It worked! When I saw the third clerk, she recognized our names and handed over our residency cards.
Witness the awesome power of Dave’s likability – he doesn’t even have to be in the room to make it work.
This ends our bureaucratic visa-scramble until next year, when we have to re-apply.
***The no-sweat policy, however, did not apply to Central Saanich’s police station, because I have gotten lost several times in that outlying municipality of farmlands. Many times, Central Saanich’s media officer had to “talk me down” over the cell phone, giving me step-by-step directions to get to the station. It is to her credit that she never directed me to Sooke, which she easily could have done. I would never have known.