Seven stupidest things said by officials

US IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS once gave me a form which asked (I am not making this up):

“Do you intend to commit terrorist acts while on US soil?”

I thought about it for a while to appear polite and then wrote: "No."

I wonder how many people answer “yes” to that question?

SOMEBODY must have, for the question to remain on the form.


I reckon as soon as you become any sort of official, something weird happens to your brain, forcing you to fire bizarre questions at innocent people.

Case in point: a businessman recently told local officials that he had no birth certificate.

“No problem,” they replied. “Just bring in the mid-wife who delivered you.”

Again, this is not a joke. They actually demanded he get eyewitness proof from the woman who slipped him out of the womb 64 years ago.

(Any newborns reading this: get your mid-wife's name before you forget.)

That happened recently in India, as reported in a news cutting sent to me by a reader.


Some years ago, a friend of a friend was accompanying a coffin through the airport in Delhi when an official asked what he was doing.

“I am transporting the deceased body of an employee,” he explained.

The official, after racking his brain for something to say, asked: “Did you kill him?”

The passenger said he hadn’t, but I would have replied: “Yes, for asking supremely idiotic questions.”


But in my experience, the ultimate masters of nonsensical questions remain US immigration officials.

Typical conversation.

OFFICIAL: “You were born in Sri Lanka. How come you speak English?”

ME: “Er, I learned it.”

OFFICIAL: “Why did you learn it?”

ME: “Um, it’s useful.”

OFFICIAL: “Useful for what?”

The truth would be: “To communicate with oafs like you,” but I usually say something like this:

“So I can fully appreciate masterpieces of Western culture such as recording artiste Mr Bieber’s exquisite rendition of Baby.”

(This impresses them and gets them on my side.)


A US reader named Helen told me about municipal officials in her country writing a policy document defining same-sex couples.

By definition, couples MUST HAVE regular, active “conjugal” relations, they decided.

Helen said: “Council members, many of whom had been married for many years, suddenly realized that they had disqualified themselves.”


That story earns a good score on the Obtuse Officials Index, but consider this entry from India.

A 27-year-old man had to defend himself in court despite having been behind bars when the crime had been committed. I can imagine the discussion.

COURT OFFICIAL: “Do you have a scrap of proof that you did not commit this crime?”

DEFENDANT: “Er, I was in a maximum security jail on the other side of town.”

COURT OFFICIAL: “Other than that?”


Meanwhile in Europe, officials in Jersey demanded residents files Certificates of Existence.

A man who turned up to provide bodily proof of his existence was told that wasn’t good enough, as he’d need paper proof and a witness.


Going back to US immigration officials, a frequent contributor called Lift Lurker wondered if they ask the same questions off duty?

SPOUSE: “Good morning, dear. Would you like a cup of tea?”

OFFICIAL: “Why is it a good morning? Did you make the tea yourself? Could anyone have added anything to the tea without your knowledge?”