Passport to embarrassment

Passport to embarrassment

Mr John Lui's account of his misadventure at a supermarket self-checkout counter ("Defeated by a pack of brinjals"; last Sunday) reminds me of an embarrassing experience when I went to collect my passport at an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority self-collection kiosk.

There was nobody at the kiosk when I arrived and I felt a pang of trepidation, as I have a love-hate relationship with technology. But as I drew nearer, an officer appeared and offered to guide me through the steps, to my initial relief.

Things started to go downhill when the camera refused to recognise my face. I knew I probably looked different from my passport "glamour shot", but aren't computers smart enough to surmount this common problem?

I tried various facial expressions, ranging from the serious to the comical, before the system finally accepted it was really me. But worse was yet to come. The computer then refused to read my thumbprint. After a few futile tries, the officer helpfully suggested that my finger might be too dry, and and that I moisten it with the oil from my nose. I knew my face was oily, but this was the first time someone had a practical use for it.

Too shellshocked to protest, I did as she advised, rubbing my thumb vigorously over my nose, hoping to squeeze out sufficient sebum to grease my thumb. But the few failed attempts only resulted in a shiny red nose to rival Rudolph's.

Finally, to my relief, even the tenacious officer threw in the towel. She retrieved my passport from the room behind the kiosk, and another officer escorted me upstairs, making me feel like an immigration offender even as I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible.

After what seemed like an eternity, I got my passport from another somewhat incredulous officer. In five years' time, in the unlikely event that I use the self-collection service again, I will remember to bring a pot of grease with me, as well as my make-up artist.

-Maria Loh Mun Foong 


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