Import Duties

by Zen Master

Tags: Ma/Fa, Workplace,

Desc: Flash Story: Sometimes a simple process has hidden costs.

Seeking Enlightenment through Bondage

When we got out of the tunnel I went looking for help, finding it in the form of an officious-looking middle-aged man in the airport uniform. I figured he was probably taking a break from emptying trash cans. “Excuse me, but I need advice. My two employees don’t speak English and I don’t want to leave them alone. Where do immigrants go?”

He pointed at one of the ceiling signs. “Well, you need to go pick up your luggage first. Then, take them to Customs and Immigration. They will let you stay with them if you want. Oh, and welcome to America!”

“Thank you. It’s good to be back home!”

I knew that. Every time I came back from India I had to pick up my luggage and let the Customs people paw through my clothes. And equipment. And souvenirs. Off to one side of the Customs area there was a similar area for everyone who didn’t carry a US passport.

I waved my hand at the girls and said ‘Come’, whistling ‘Immigration Man’ by the Beatles. No, they did ‘Tax Man’. I couldn’t remember who did ‘Immigration Man’. “Look at the world outside and let me in!”

The girls both spoke perfect English. Anyone from England would say they spoke it better than me. Tough, we weren’t in England and I spoke American like the native I was. When among strangers, though, the girls usually pretended to not understand English and I thought that wise.

Luggage was the usual crowd, the long wait, and the fight over who got theirs first. There was no option to simply wait until everyone else was done, as long before that there would be more planes landing and the conveyors would never really empty. The real reason I flew through Atlanta was because it wasn’t as bad here as Washington or New York.

Eventually we got to Immigration and we stopped at the ‘Translation Services’ desk.

“Hello, how may I help you?”

“My two employees are from India and don’t speak English very well. Do you have anyone who speaks Marathi? I’d like to avoid any trouble with you people.”

“Just a second while I set that up. There may be a delay if those translators are busy.”

She fiddled with her mouse for a bit, then plugged something in and then pulled it out and plugged it into something else, handing that to me. “This is a speaker phone that you can carry with you. It is connected to a English to Marathi translator. Please say hello to her.”

I took the phone and said “Hello?”

“Good evening, sir. I understand that you need a translator for Marathi. Is this correct?”

“Yes, ma’am, it is.”

“Very good. Is your Marathi speaker present?”

“Yes, they are right here.”

“Please allow me to speak with them for a moment to ensure that this works.”

She started in on that gabble that I couldn’t understand. I recognized the greeting and then they were off jabbering away. I did hear their names and “Programmer” and a couple of other English words, but otherwise it was the same as when they were making fun of me. I had no idea what they were talking about. They were all having a good time, though, with laughing, giggling, and tittering.

The translator shifted back to English. “Sir, there appears to be some confusion about why they are here. This does not matter to me, all conversations are confidential, but you may have trouble going through Immigration.”


“They say that you hired one of them as a programmer.”

“Yes. Rani is very good at what I need done. It’s cheaper to bring her over here, pay for an apartment, and pay her four times what she was making over there than it is to pay her employers. And I get far faster response if she’s in an office here.”

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Workplace /