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(Past) Tension in the Airport

My English skills are far from perfect. There are probably many mistakes in this very blog entry that I missed when I proofread the text. So what, I still get along quite well with my English, which is more important than speaking with flawless grammar. Besides, Broken English is the most spoken language in the World.  But sometimes speaking the crucial sentences 100% correct can be very important.

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Quick stopover. We are coming from New York, USA heading back to Finland. My wife is carrying a big camera in its bag. There is an unlabelled desk in the middle of the corridor. I mean, there reads nothing anywhere, just a desk. And two officials, a young man and a senior man, probably from the customs.

- Please step over here, one of them tells us. We were just a couple of people in the passenger flow, by no means everyone was stopped.  
- Do you have a camera in there? the younger man asks, pointing at the camera bag my wife was carrying.
- Yes.
- Could you open the bag, please?
- Of course. We show the camera to the officers. It's only few months old, so it still looks quite new.
- Where did you board this? Asks the younger man, or so we think.
- Um, in New York, we reply, both wondering about the odd question. But hey, that's where we're coming from. In few moments we'll board it into another plane that goes to Finland.
 - Aha! You have to pay duty for the camera then! the man declares triumphantly. The older man starts digging up some forms to fill in.

We are baffled by the turn the conversation just took. We explain that the camera is bought in Finland last November or so, and unfortunately we haven't been carrying a receipt with us in the last few months any more.  

- But you just said you bought it in New York, the man accuses.

After our brains ticking over for couple of seconds we both realise at the same time the young customs officer has used a double past tense, i.e. he asked us: Where did you bought this? where 'bought' sounded like 'board' in our ears. Probably partly because 'boarding' is not very unusual word to hear in an airport context.

My wife tries to explain the man where it all had gone wrong, but he becomes more and more puzzled. I start to dig pen and notebook from my backpack in order to make him understand the mistake by showing him the jumbled words written. Finally the senior officer seems to get what my wife tries to explain because he says it's all ok. We're free to go. We still don't know if that poor younger man ever understood what actually went wrong in that conversation.

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