I went to the respective office and found out that they had already made a list with several hundred names of those who wanted a passport, a lot more than the logical limit of those who stood any chance of submitting their papers before closing hours, even if the schedule had been adjusted significantly. The next day I went back and, although it was before sunrise, I put my name on the list in a rather worrying position: I wasn?t sure I would be able to squeeze myself into the clerks? timetable. This fear continued to cast a shadow on my joy for 14 hours, the time I spent queuing. It was the first time in my life when I was crammed up in the same room as hundreds of other people, considering that the room couldn?t accommodate more than fifty or sixty, who were leaning against one another, stepping on one another?s toes, breathing the already stuffy air, but feeling the same kind of special emotion that made you forget all hardship. All you had to do was count down the 114 ? 79 ? 43 ? 21 people in front of you, and you would be the happiest man on earth. You simply forgot the inhuman and perhaps even humiliating conditions you were forced into, you forgot other queues you had experienced trying to get the necessary documents. One more step and you would be ? a free man! A couple of days later (I can?t remember how many, but I know I counted them down) I queued again (for just 2 hours this time) and finally! I was holding the object without which my life made no sense anymore. I was so happy that I wasn?t bothered that on the front cover of my passport there was still the old emblem of the Socialist Republic of Romania defying me ?
The first trip abroad
Three months after I had got my passport, I received a phone call from Switzerland saying that a Mazda was waiting there for me to drive to Romania. The car was for free, the customs was virtually inexistent (they had issued a law stipulating that, until the 30th of December 1990, any product, from needles to the Queen Mary II, that was brought to Romania through customs would be tax free), I had my passport in my pocket and I didn?t have to ask for anybody?s permission to get on board a plane to Zurich. I got the Swiss visa in 24 hours (which was unbelievable!!) and ? here I was, at Otopeni Airport. It was the first time I had ever stood on the other side of the ugly wall made of frosted glass which separated those waiting for their friends to arrive from the happy ones who were leaving. My first impression was of an incredible mess, of the arrogant customs officers and of the moustache of the woman in uniform who threw a disgusted look at my still virgin passport. I hate to travel by plane but that particular morning I was convinced that God hadn?t promised me happiness only to brutally take it away in a plane crash.