A full passport is every traveler’s dream – until it becomes an immigration nightmare.
“Should I just cover this?” the official taunted, pointing to a haphazardly stamped-up page.
“Okay,” I shrugged.
“No! That’s illegal!” he said. So should full-page, gilded, visa-on-arrival stickers, I thought to myself.
“Look, I don’t know what you want me to do,” I answered him.
My husband, Matt, and I had been traveling for 13 months and had just met up with his family to visit Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat. Not being allowed a visa would certainly put a damper on the trip. “You must pay fine over there,” the official instructed.
Matt and I headed to the designated counter while his family stood by and waited; he ducked under the line first and I followed suit. Right leg under, dip and – RIP! – Oh god! What panties was I wearing?! I reached my right hand around to assess the damage. The tear was bigger than my hand, but then I felt them - white cotton briefs. Full coverage, phew.
I looked over my right shoulder and made eye contact with my brother-in-law, Thomas, who was doing a poor job of suppressing his laughter while Ben, brother-in-law number two, was trying to figure out what was so funny. Mercifully, my father-in-law was staring at the opposite wall and Dawn, my mother-in-law, was still oblivious to the situation.
The officials behind the counter said something and Matt handed them our documents. I looked over my left shoulder at the long line of Cambodian residents waiting approval to re-enter their country. There were no smirks or sniggers; instead I met a few wide-eyed, sympathetic glances before noticing the bathroom not far beyond them. How would it look if I made a run for it? Weird. I resigned to waiting at the counter.
Dawn suddenly appeared, “Laura, your pants hav--”
“I know,” I said, defeated.
“It’s okay, I’m right behind you,” she said.
I turned back to the counter and handed over $50 in fine money. The visas were affixed and our passports were handed back. We were free to go, only this time I didn’t duck under the line - I carefully unhooked the latch and re-hooked it behind me. Dawn shadowed me to the bathroom. I entered an open stall and locked it behind me. Deep breath. I almost always travel with safety pins in my carry-on. Not today.
“Do you have anything?” I asked Dawn.
“No,” she said sadly as I came out and set my bag on the counter, Dawn opened it up while I cringed at my backside in the mirror.
“Laura!” She cried, holding up my green cardigan, “Tie it around your waist!”
We strolled out of the restroom and into Matt, “What’s going on?” he asked. “My pants ripped when we went under the line,” I answered. “Really?” he laughed, adding a low, “Wow” when I flashed him the damage. “This wouldn’t have happened if their visas weren’t so huge,” I pouted. “Yes it would’ve,” Matt said, “it just would’ve happened somewhere else.”
“Anywhere else would’ve been better than this,” I said, realizing I didn’t mind that 30 or so strange Cambodians had seen my skivvies; it’s not like I had to see them again and again… for the rest of my married life.