The perils of lying to immigration officials

Mauritius Sunset

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. As this story proves, you should be careful about telling jokes to strangers. Sometimes your most ridiculous fantasies can turn out to be a prophetic glimpse into the future.

April 2006. I had just finished business school and, armed with my newly acquired MBA degree, I was taking a holiday with my wife before coming home and applying for one of those big-money jobs that would be the first step of a lucrative career.

We had just landed in Mauritius from Cape Town and after several hours squashed at the back of the plane (those days would soon be over, I muttered to myself), we shuffled off and joined the back of the immigration queue. I picked up the forms and I set about filling the boxes until I stopped at the one marked ‘Occupation’. What should I write? Technically I was still a student, as graduation wasn’t for another couple of months. But that wouldn’t do; I was nearly 40 and I didn’t want to appear like some sort of over-grown drop-out.

I can’t say I’m unemployed, obviously. Maybe I could just put down one of the job titles I would soon be applying for: Strategic Manager; Management Consultant; Director of Implementation. They sounded grand, but I feared the possible inquisition that might follow. On a whim, I wrote Travel Writer. It was a ridiculous thing to put but I figured it wouldn’t do any harm and besides, no-one gives any trouble to a travel writer.

I approached the middle-aged man with a smile and he set about flicking through my document with a bored face that only a man who is coming to the end of an 8 hour shift staring at passports can pull. And then he stopped and smiled. “So, you’re a travel writer!” I smiled nervously. “Yes, I am.” “What sort of things do you write?”

This was not going to plan. “I write fiction,” I said quickly, wondering why I hadn’t put down something like Quantitative Systems Analyst instead. “Ooooh” he said at length. “Will you be writing about Mauritius?”

I scrambled to come up with the correct answer. “Yes, I hope so” I said.

He looked at me with a smile and said, “Please include me as a character in your writing.”

I think I said OK as I gladly took back our documents and hurried away from trouble as quickly as possible.

Well, Mr Immigration Man. It’s seven years late and it’s hardly fiction, but I’ve finally got around to fulfilling my part of the deal. I hope you have been just as nice to the real travel writers you’ve met during the course of your work.

 

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Freelance travel writer

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