I have a problem with name tags. Instinctively, I trust them. More specifically, I trust those who wear them. Proudly hanging about the neck, fastened to an engraved cloth lanyard or sometimes encased in thick plastic, name tags bring the wearer a sense of confidence and to the casual observer, they impart a moral correctness. Without investigating the details, a simple glance at this innocent rectangular identification tablet comforts me. It says, "Hey, I'm here to help."
Or do they? Mark my words: Beware of those who wear name tags. Name tags don't mean a goddamn thing. They are useful pieces of deception, and most importantly, rarely recognized as so.
My first realization that a name-tagged person is not always a qualified, certified, and moralized person occurred while I was in Morocco. Actually, it happened when I was leaving Morocco:
Having arrived from Fez at the Tangiers train station much later than expected, I had approximately 10 minutes to get from the train station to the port and to the soon-to-depart ferry that would take me to Spain.
Dashing out the station doors, duffel bag awkwardly in tow and hat on head, I run across the front car park and take the first petit-taxi I come across on the main road. The driver is literally beckoning me, waving me on into his car, like I'm some kind of marathon runner. Mistake. I jump in the back door, sweating and short of breath. Mistake. This guy knows that he's got me by the balls. I'm fucked before he even opened his mouth. We start negotiating the price (a necessity in the Islamic world), but I'm in a hurry and I don't have time to negotiate. I need to get going. The driver, obviously, knows this. Fucking Stevie Wonder would know this. He's got me by the balls.
"Just go!" I shout, in a restrained manner. (I think I said "vamos!", trying to hide the fact that I was American [many people speak Spanish in Tangiers], because, as an American, I apparently have money. Not willing to disappoint the driver with the fact that I was broke, I tried to hide my nationality anyway)
"No, no." my smiling antagonist oozed. He wanted to talk prices.
"Five euros!" I stupidly shout. That's about 10-15 times the actual price and maybe a half day's wages for him.
Needless to say, we leave.
Driving down the main road, I'm sitting in the back seat, bag across my lap, checking my watch constantly. I just need this guy to stop somewhere close to the port and then I'll hop out and run the rest of the way. I'm fucked. I'm late. Come on. The boat is about to leave and I will be stuck in fucking Tangiers-- and the sun is about to set. The driver stops at the front gate and I quickly throw him a five euro note. He has the cajones, the fucking gall, the goddamn audacity to ask, innocently, "Tip?"
I sneer. "You're kidding me" or something in that rude sort of vain and hop out.
I take off running towards the boat.
Running up a long ramp that leads to the customs house, I know that I am seconds away from missing this boat. I dash through the front door, looking for the next checkpoint or visa station. Anything. Just get me on that boat. A man comes running up to me and seizes my left arm, "Hurry! Hurry! Boat leaves soon!" We rush to the right a short distance and to the customs window. Awesome. He asks me for my passport. I look, and see he is wearing a name tag.
Why did I trust this guy? Not even that. Why, without thinking, without blinking, did I hand this random fucking guy my passport?
Because he was wearing a name tag.
I give this guy my passport and he starts filling out a piece of paper he has next to him-- quite illegibly and in haste. I stand there, anxiously, looking at the customs window. Imagine it: Me- standing, waiting, looking. Dude- scribbling, smiling, referencing my passport. It dawned on me. This fucker doesn't work for customs. He's scamming me. And, he has my passport.
"Stop!" I shout, a little too loudly.
He doesn't let go of my passport-- so I grab it.
We are both holding on to my passport, pulling it in opposite directions, tug of war style. He is smiling. I am fucking furious.
"Fuck off" I hiss as I wrench it from his hands.
"Tip?" he smiles, like a weasel.
As the sweat drips down my cheek, I whisper an obscenity. I stomp over to the customs official who, behind his bullet proof glass, is grinning a little too much. He's seen this before.
I get my passport stamped, curse the Moroccan government, sprint, and make it to the ramp of the boat (with the crewmen shouting at me to hurry up), just in time. I get on board, sit, and start writing about what just happened.
Lesson: Don't trust people with name tags.
ps. Also, don't trust street protesters with name tags who try to get your money or get your email address. Who the hell are they? What are they trying to prove with their name tags and t-shirts? Legitimacy? No. No soup for you. I can print up a name tags, scrawl a catchy and rebellious organization name across the top, and do the same thing.
Fool me once...