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  • Betsy Millane

Negotiating

I was stuck. Backpacking through Europe, taking a train through Yugoslavia ( a Soviet bloc country then) on my way to Greece, at the border the officials would not give me my passport.

I was tired and hungry and dirty. My friend and I were on our way to Greece, where the living would be cheap and the weather, good. Our funds would get us far in Greece, but we first had to get there.

My friends passport was returned without an issue and she returned to her seat.Yugoslavia freaked me out a bit. The dogs and gun toting guards that held up the train at the border in Austria was alarming. They took mirrors and checked the underside of the train carriages. They burst into our compartment and demanded our passports and took them away. We passed through gorgeous ocean vistas and rough industrial towns, where workers marched in shabby uniforms into and out of factories. I thought that perhaps as a gesture of generosity I should throw my blue jeans, a hot commodity, off the train for some lucky scavenger to find and cash in on. But I didn't dare.

And I was the hold up on the train. It was me and the officials. Looking at each other.

I didn't understand their language, and they didn't understand mine.

Then it dawned on me. What they wanted was a bribe.

I dug into the pouch I wore awake and sleeping and came out with a $50 USA bill. I put it on the table. The officials muttered among each other. For a long minute I thought they were going to put me off the train.

The dug around some paperwork and dragged out my passport, the precious blue book that chartered my travels. I took it, they nodded, gathered up their paperwork, and exited the train.

I returned to the compartment and sunk into my seat in great relief.

Negotiation - it's often now what is said, but what isn't.

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