In retrospect, the following little story makes you smile, but at the time it happened, it was extremely annoying. In view of the limited current travel options, it wouldn’t have happened to me these days …
It is a very hot August afternoon and a long weekend at the Lake Geneva lies ahead of us. In Liestal, near Basel, I have an appointment with a long-time friend who wants to show me her company shortly before closing time. A bit stressed, I look at my watch. Time is running out because the Basel highway is once more very crowdy this Friday and the next traffic jam is only a matter of time. Without further ado, we decide – as quite often – to take the less busy French A35 via Strasbourg and Mulhouse.
After 2.5 hours, we slowly roll along the small country road in our cabrio towards the Swiss border in Basel, coming from France. There are only three cars ahead of us, which are waved through as usual. But we were stopped abruptly and asked for our passports in an unfriendly French. The gentleman in blue mumbles something to himself and circles around our vehicle several times; checking tires and badges, etc. I don’t know what he’s looking for, but obviously he would like to find a deficiency. Finally he lets us open the trunk. Inside there is only a small suitcase. Obviously he had been looking for a briefcase with „black money“ or at least bank receipts. A German who travels to Switzerland on a Friday afternoon not via the Germany, but rather via a French motorway to Switzerland in a car like this, has certainly something to hide. So it seems invisibly written on his forehead.
Then he opens the side doors as well as the glove compartment and looks intently inside. His knowledge of German is apparently almost zero, instead he asks en francais where my husband keeps his briefcase. When he receives the answer that he doesn’t have any, just a money clip and a wallet for some vehicle documents, he slowly raises his eyebrows and his eyes begin to glitter. There is not much missing and he would have torn down the side panels of the car doors in search of whatever.
Instead, he now focuses on my handbag at my feet and tells us both to get out oft he car and follow him to the border house for further control and questioning. The clock is ticking and I getting aware that I can simply forget about my date in Liestal. A long queue has already formed behind us and those cars waiting are watching the scenary with excitement.
So we place the car on the side stripe and follow him into the sticky cubicle; an additional colleague of the border control accompanies us. I feel like being in a bullfight, where I am the red rag and he is the bull, who paws aggressively with his hooves and flared nostrils. However I’m only wearing a light beige summer dress.
So I put the entire content of the handbag on a dusty wooden table. That’s quite a lot, because it’s a typical women’s handbag. My husband does the same on the other side and empties his pants pockets. We just look at each other with a shrug. Finally, “our man” discovers a watch on my wrist – a Chopard. Ah, an exclusive Swiss watch. His eyes signal triumphantly seem to approach an imaginary goal.
During that time we often stayed in Switzerland, because we had a second residence in Montreux. He immediately asks me when and where this watch was bought. Since it was a birthday present years ago, I unsuspectingly ask my husband whether he bought this watch before or after our stay in Mexico. Ha, the word “Mexico” brings our “calf bite” to new possibilities of offense, now he is on the “drug trip”. So he actually lets us roll up our sleeves and looks for puncture sites. Had a female border assistant been nearby, he would have certainly asked for a rectal finger test or an X-ray analysis of the abdomen.
Next he will probably ask about my fancy rings on my finger. Spontaneously I think about a funny answer like they are part of a robbery from last year. But he ignores this jewelry and is still not in the mood for jokes.
For me this “terrier with tunnel view“ is slowly getting on my nerves and I ask my husband to finally show him his lawyer ID. After presenting this document, his colleague finally stopps the survey and indicates „him“ to finish the search as well. Incidentally, my husband also wore a Swiss watch, but was able to credibly assure his colleague by naming the German vendor and povision of a certificate upon request.
Grudgingly, the “gentleman” finally gave up, certainly still being convinced to find something relevant to customs. With a wave of his hand he tells us to get back into the car, but evidently without returning us our ID cards. When we loudly complain about this, the Swiss customs officer, who is only 20 meters away on the other side of the barrier, rises his head. Our “avenger“ hesitates, then he resolutely approaches the Swiss colleague and provocatively hands him over our passports. Like he wanted to say, do whatever you want to do. Almost an hour had passed meantime. So we cross over the 20 meters to Switzerland. The officer was shaking his head while presenting us our documents. We talk about the situation for a minute when he finally says: “Sorry, have a nice stay in Switzerland”.
After this memorable border control we passed this border many times again, but no trace of the particular “gentleman” anymore. Allez les bleus.