Things People Say While Waiting to Clear Passport Control in Brussels

Collecting out-of-context banalities (and the occasional profundity) can help make a line move.

The Brussels airport, when it's empty  (Reuters )

There is very little in international air travel quite so unpleasant as the moment you realize that a) you don't carry an EU passport; and b) the bureaucrats at EU airports don't particularly care about people who don't carry EU passports. (Fact check: There are things that actually are far more unpleasant in international air travel, including crashing, and Dulles International Airport, in that order.)

I just landed in Brussels after an overnight flight from the aforementioned Dulles and found myself, along with hundreds of others—mainly Americans—on the non-EU passport line. It was one of those tightly coiled lines that provides the appearance, though not the reality, of movement. Out of boredom, and recreational graphomania, I started writing down (in the margins of Jim Fallows's latest Atlantic cover story, actually) things people around me were saying. Most of the line was comprised of silent shufflers, of course, and I only heard bits of several telephone conversations. But I was surprised by the number of chatty people, and I thought I would share some of what I heard on the hour-long hijra to the other side of passport control.

Just so we're clear, I don't fully grasp the context of any of the following comments:

"It doesn't work if it doesn't roll."

"We're on a tri-semester system. Not trimester, tri-semester."

"I'm very nervous."

"Call Judy and tell her we made it."

"What is Wallonia?"

"Did he just say 'fucker'? He was like, 'Blah, blah, fucker, blah, blah.' That's just weird."

"It's all about managing your expectations."

"How did she get him to sit still with a Santa hat on? Was he asleep?"

"I love Denzel Washington."

"Did you call Judy?"

"Anywhere north of here the water is safe."

"Look at this passport. Seriously, look at it. It's, like, crazy."

"You can stop memory loss with mental exercises."

"I guess at a certain point you just have to give in and eat breakfast."

"It's actually a sweater-vest."

I never did find out if they called Judy, by the way.