|Subject: Iran travelogue|
Here's another short piece from my Iran travelogue
(http://home.msen.com/~burnett). It's takes place on the road from Isfahan
to the desert city of Bam in the southern Iran.
On the trip south there seemed to be police checkpoints every hour or so. I wouldn't have thought much about them except my driver, Moghadam, would turned the tape player down and sat up a little straighter. We were always waved through except at one as we neared Bam in the southern desert.
Here Moghadam scrambled to get his documents together and got out to talk to the soldiers. I toyed with the idea of walking around and taking a few photos, but thought better of it after looking at the rifles and pistols these guys were carrying. After a few minutes Moghadam came back and asked for my papers. These were the ones I had been given when I first arrived in Iran; the ones I had been told very clearly to always have with me; the very same ones that I had for some unknown reason decided to leave at the hotel that day.
Moghadam, already worked up in a nervous sweat, looked crestfallen and headed back to explain to the police. As he disappeared into a building I took for the headquarters, a solider came and started searching the car: first the trunk and then the back seat. He looked in my daypack and he even opened my bottle of mineral water and sniffed it.
As I sat there waiting, I tried to calculate the worse case scenario. I naively figured that at worse I wouldn't be allowed to proceed and would be sent back. Now, on further reflection, I realize that if I hadn't had proper identification they probably would have detained me. To make matters worse I didn't have my passport with me: the hotels always insist on keeping it for their security.
Anyway, this drama has a happy ending. After a few minutes Moghadam reappears, got in the car and we took off. I could see he was quite flustered. As soon as the checkpoint was out of sight he explained, using his limited English and pantomime, that he had a copy of my papers, but soldiers wanted the original - the one's I was supposed to be carrying. He had used his mobile phone, a device I had been making fun of in my mind because he was talking on it so much, to save the day: he called my travel agent in Tehran who cleared the matter up. Moghadam also made it clear I should never leave my papers behind - that time I got the message.