Washington Dulles Airport – I once worked for an American multi national company called “Peterson, Howell and Heather” or PHH as it was commonly known. I was in charge of the I.T department of their operations in the UK and I regularly visited their headquarters on the East Coast. Being a UK national, I was able to enter and leave the USA relatively easily courtesy of the visa waiver programme between the two countries. After a 7-hour long and boring flight, we landed and made our way to immigration desks. Like a modern supermarket, there were some 32 windows available, about 30 of them were for US citizens and the other two for all other nationalities; not the most welcoming arrangements, one might think. So, two lines were populated by hundreds of people and the other 30 had time enough on their hands to rustle up a meal for all of us “other nationalities”, if they were that way inclined. After half a millennium waiting time, it was my turn to step up to the counter to present my passport and have it stamped so I may be allowed to enter the country and go about my legitimate business. Before I recount my short conversation with the middle-aged, bored and miserable immigration officer, I must declare a philosophy of mine: I don’t like officialdom at all, anyone who has the right to stop me and ask questions while busily writing on pieces of papers is no friend of mine. Since I have no choice but to answer, no matter how ridiculous or banal the questions are, I just give short and direct answers with deadpan attitude. I never exchange pleasantries, joke, give long answers or elaborate in any shape or form; just answer the question as it is put to me, hoping the entire ordeal is short and painless. Occasionally, this tactic backfires….
Officer: Passport please
I hand over my passport helpfully open at the picture / detail page
Officer: where did you come from?
Me: the UK
Officer: where are you staying?
Me: Marriot Hotel, D.C
Officer: What is the purpose of your visit?
Me: I have business meetings
Officer: where are these meetings taking place?
Me: at our company HQ
Officer: what is the name of your company?
Me: PHH Inc.
Officer: What is the nature of your job at PHH Inc.?
Me: I am in IT
Officer (sarcastically): Oh really?
Officer: now, are you going to explain to me what “Eye Teee” stands for or shall I try and figure it out for myself?
Me (with hackles up): it is entirely up to you, you can guess or I can tell you.
Officer: why don’t you tell me so this way we save a lot of time?
Me: it stands for Information Technology
Officer: there now, isn’t this better? You know, it would be so much better if you use full words when you talk to people instead of just using initials; it makes them like you a lot more that way.
Me: really? How come you are using full words and I already don’t like you?
Officer (stamping my passport): well now, we seem to have understood each other very well today, enjoy your stay in the Yoo Ess Aih.
I walked away thinking to myself: I lied, I actually liked the guy!