Talk of, travels and trouble with travels in the office, reminded me of the day I nicked my own passport. It was all about money, a gratuity paid by a company for time spent with the company, this was in Dubai in 1980/1981. My company was a joint venture of a local housebuilder and a massive French outfit, essentially a part of Colas. I had worked for 18 months on the underpasses and enjoyed Dubai and the project enormously. But i was due this dosh and was not going to let it easily escape my clutches. The problem was the company held your passport and when it was time to leave, your visa was cancelled and your passport was handed back to you. I had taken advice, from the ministry, that in itself was the usual arab encounter, if you are prepared for it and have a go attitude it's ok, like shopping in the souk really. Bargain, stick yourself out there. In a very crowded room the fat controller eventually caught my eye and said "do do not cancel your visa", when i explained my gratuity issue. So I had to get my passport back, hopefully with connivance and not violence, here's what happened. Having been in the Ministry I knew there was a series of short stairs up to the third floor, each turning 180 degrees to to other, I asked the HR person accompanying the four of us to look at my passport and he obligingly did but kept his eye on me, I pretended to scan the passport and held back, when he turned up the next flight out of my sight I immediately turned and escaped before he realised i had gone. There was nothing they could do, my contract was finished, my car was going in a week and I was going to Oman to work and had my ticket. Back in the office all hell broke loose, my car was removed, and i was told to return my passport and I would then get my gratuity. Not effing likely I said, gratuity cheque first then I will cancel my visa. You are breaking the law we will have you arrested, go ahead said I. Days passed where I presented myself at the financial managers office, he was a cousin of the lebanese director! cheque was always coming tomorrow, can't really remember just what happened, but one day the cheque was there and I was off in a taxi to the bank, feeling most smug. That feeling soon disappeared. Most Banks were awash with women in Burkas, something about subsidy for the number of camels kept, I am not making this up. I went to my bank, remember the Pakistani one that went bust with 23 million of the Highlands and Islands council's money, well that one. Nae burkas in sight! but disaster, cheque needed two signatures, I had only one! those tricky S o Bs had foiled me, for today anyway. Next day taxi to office and wait for the senior Frenchman, who could countersign my cheque, as no one aligned to the director would. Without fuss I got the signature and he thanked me for my efforts on the project and wished me well in Oman. Different approach eh? So to the company bank to get my loot, the jobs worth behind the counter says I don't have an account so I cannot cash the cheque, I argue, this is one of your cheques, two signatures, here is my Passport, here is my visa to be here, V important, sorry can't be done says he, right says I raising my voice, I want to open an account. Get out the paperwork i have plenty of time, lets fill it in and then i will withdraw all the money except one Dhiram. Then i give him one of my pissed off looks and put elbows on the counter in a this is now my space moves. Looks like I have played an ace, he calls a supervisor, he then listens, looks at the cheque and tells the jobs worth to pay me. I had learned that to survive as an expat, you need to perform, be confident, be informed and work hard. I just applied those expat survival tools on my employer. Although I had finished, the usual snags had to be sorted, so the end of contract party was in a few months time, I drove to Dubai from Oman and uninvited arrived at the party, was met by the director who was greeting everyone, remember be Nabil? says i, yes I do, very well says he, you are most welcome, and I was. It was a great night and a great project, I held no grudges nor did they, it was just business, souk style.

One Response to “The day I nicked my own passport”

  1. May 19, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Hello Ian, have you tried carrying foreign passport through Heathrow, that’s even more fun when immigration stops you and will not let into the country unless you have big enough dosh in the bank and they phone your Britsh wife, your British wife says ok you can let him into the country. Or may be when one of them leans over her counter and shout to the guy who is dealing with you “Tell him to take his wife to where ever he came from”

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