Our trip to the “police’s stranger population” office as it is word-for-word translated, passed without incident, except for the part where they took our residency cards away.
I am not normally alarmed by this, except that the last time I took a flight out of Switzerland, the border control officer scowled at me until I produced that same card. I understand Switzerland’s insistence on seeing my residency card on the way in, but why on the way out? Can I leave here without that cute little pink-and-powder-blue plastic-coated card?
I am genetically tuned to flight. While one side of my family engaged in a slow migration across Canada, taking over 400 years to get from the St. Lawrence Seaway to the prairies, the other side wears the motto, “Let’s get the heck out of here now!” or as my father once described it “Run!” He was a man of few words, but that was because he was saving his breath for the big sprint out of Eastern Europe.
But I digress a little. Exit visas are a little-known dirty secret of some countries. I do not believe this will really be a problem in Switzerland, although if it is I will happily skip across the border into France, even if I have to walk the Jura Mountains to do it.
A friend of ours discovered the importance of exit visas when he and his young family landed in one of those little-known Middle-Eastern nations that form a mere fingernail on the map. Unfortunately, in his wake came the U.S. Army and they were ticked.
Now that I think about it, I can’t remember if he and his wife had children yet. No matter.
So while Saddam was getting kicked around the block by his mom for inciting the infamous “mother of all battles,” (at least, I hope she was kicking him around), our friend, let’s call him Sam, decided there really was no place like home, especially as home did not have any Combat F-15 Eagles soaring overhead.
That’s when Sam found out he had an entry visa, but not an exit visa. Even though both begin with the letter “e,” they are very different, especially in the minds of border agents.
How long would it take to get an exit visa? Well, all the bureaucrats were busy hiding under desks, so visa processing was somewhat slowed down.
Sam, who happens to be a published author, does not realize this is his best story ever, mostly because he is emotionally incapacitated while retelling it. How he escaped remains sketchy, although he does recall an embassy official chiding him for not bringing two passports with him so that he could use the one without an entry visa stamp to flee the country.
We do not see much of Sam any more. Our lives have gently diverted away from each other, but I still count him among my friends, because it is very cool to know someone who has once sincerely uttered these words: “I want the next flight out of here. I don’t care where it’s going.” *
Which leads us to the important question: How do we get two Canadian passports, and is it too late to ask?
On the other hand, if we are stuck in Switzerland, which I’m sure we’re not, at least we will have plenty of chocolate to calm our nerves.
*He ended up in Greece, which at the time of the Kuwait invasion was okay, but today would not be so much fun, so I hope we don’t run into similar problems.
The city he was stuck in was Abu Dhabi, capital of United Arab Emirates.
The memorable phrase from the border guard was, “Your wife can go, but you are staying”. (Because he had a work visa stamp in his passport.)