“Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our initial approach into Tehran. Please
fasten your seatbelts, raise your seats, and lift your trays into the upright and locked
I jolted awake. I was almost there. 24 hours of travel has brought me to Tehran,
capital of Persia, City of Lights. Why was I here? I don’t know really. I just wanted to
see Iran, and I needed an adventure. Simple as that.
I step off the jet way and I immediately take in the sights of the terminal. Persian
businessmen in suits, most women in shorts, and only a small fraction of women
in standard “Muslim attire”. It was already clear the Western media portrayed
this country as one of people with no liberties. Of course there was a picture of
Ahmandinjad, but that was to be expected. I see the sign for immigration and I head
When I got in line, a few butterflies fell over my stomach. I wasn’t all that worried
about getting into the country; I just generally felt the immigration process was a bit
nerve racking. Perhaps I had seen one too many spy movies where one unnecessary
movement and you could spend your day answering the question, “who are you
doing business with” 60 times over. All the while, you are taking a sucker punch
every time you give them the answer “I don’t know what you’re talking about”. Not
to mention, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the fact that my passport said “United
States of America” and I was in a country where the government hated America.
However, I knew that one thing they loved more than they hated America was
American money. So, I figured they’d let me through with nothing more than a long
stare down from the customs officer after he said very softly “Welcome to Iran”, as if
he really meant to say, “Watch yourself, punk”.
I stepped up to the line and waited for the customs officer to waive me over. Once
he did, I graciously walked to the booth and lightly laid down my blue passport with
the gold stamped eagle emblem on it that all but screams “Fuck yeah! Freedom!”
The customs officer saw this and immediately looked up to me with a light tremor
coming from his upper lip. He looked down as he opened the information page,
looks at the picture, and slowly lifts his head back up to stare me down again. After
a relatively short staring contest with the officer, he looked back down and grabbed
his walky_talky. My heart sank. I knew this was no good. I’d been through many
customs before and they never used their radio. He placed my passport to the side
and went to his computer. He hadn’t even scanned my passport - not a good sign.
Suddenly a man approaches me, lifts up his shoulders, looks at me square in the eye
and says, “come with me”. There wasn’t a whole lot of bullshit in this guy’s voice, so I
did exactly what he told me.
We of course walked all the way through the terminal and into a dingy hallway,
just as I had seen in all the movies. We turn into a room with no windows and a
metal door. When he opened the door, he grabbed me by the back of the arm and
forcefully escorted me in and hand cuffed me in a cushion-less chair.
After what felt like 45 minutes, a man with shiny, curly hair down to his shoulders
walked in. He sat across from me in a nice computer chair. Watching his ass have
comfort was already torture. The man with curly hair took a deep sniff, looked to
his left, and spit.
He looks back at me and says, “what are you doing in my country?”
“I’m just here to visit sir!” I said this with a nice, warming smile.
“How can I believe you?”
“Hmm… well… I guess you’re just gonna have to trust me, because I have nothing to
offer you. You could search my stuff…”
“Where is your bags?”
“Umm well at the baggage claim, hopefully.”
The man with the curly hair reaches for his radio and says something in Farsi.
I’m not quite sure what he said but he left immediately afterwards and about 20
minutes later he came back with my suit case, ripped the zipper open, and threw out
all my stuff. He just kind of starred at me after this with his hands on his hip.
“Is there anything I should know about?”
“No sir. Just lots of clothes, sun block, and some books.”
“Where is your computer?”
“I didn’t bring one sir.”
This was just getting frustrating. My voice started to take a tone of desperation.
“Look dude! I didn’t bring a computer. I just came to Iran to visit Tehran and mind
my own business.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Look! I told you! I have nothing to prove to you. I’ve got nothing on me. Why don’t
you just walk me out the door, and let me enjoy my stay in Iran?”
“Why did you want to come here?”
“I don’t know! It’s a beautiful country that Americans don’t hear or see a lot of. It’s
one of the first inhabited lands of humans. It’s home of the Persian dynasty. I mean…
wouldn’t you want to visit Iran if you didn’t live here?”
There was a long pause as the customs officer stared at him.
“You mean, you… as an American you came to visit my country just to learn about
us?” His voice was suddenly a lot more relaxed.
“Yes sir, that is what I am telling you.”
The officer looked down and started pacing around the room with his head down,
looking as if he was about to say something. He stopped and turned back to me.
“I tell you what… you like Persian girls?”
“Ya yeah! Of course I do!” There was some serious hesitation in my voice.
The officer paced around with the same posture, only this time putting his hand on
his lip, unsure of what exactly he wanted to say.
“Okay… you take me to night club tonight.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t say anything, but my face said it all, so he
repeated it. “You take me to night club tonight.”
“You ww want me to take you to the night club?”
“Yes. Persian vomen love American guys.”
“Well… well... alright... Lets do it...! Does that mean I get to leave here?”
The officer paused for a few seconds, lifted his head up as he looked at me in the eye
and said, “Only if we get laid.”
In my head I was thinking, “Ahhh shit! I’m a nerd for god’s sake. How am I supposed
to get myself laid, let alone this creep?”, but it seemed I had one response.
“Haha! Of course man! Let’s do this!”
The officer lowered his shoulder, let out a smile, and said, “HAHA! Are you serious
“Yeahhhh man! I do this shit all the time at home.”
“This is great! Okay Okay! Now… I watch you, and do just what you do. Okay?”
I couldn’t believe what I was about to do. However, it was like the adrenaline was
driving my every word. I knew there was serious discomfort coming my why is this
guy didn’t like what I had to offer. So I just rolled with it. I improvised my every
move. It’s quite amazing who we are capable of changing ourselves into in a time of
“Alright man… We gotta get out of here and get some clothes!”
“Ah! Yes! I love the way you Americans think!”
I lifted my arms up to be uncuffed and he nodded sharply, then came over to me and
removed them. I sat up, put my arm around his shoulder, told him we were about to
have a great night, and out the door we went.
Before I knew it, we were in the markets of Tehran trying to outfit ourselves
with Iran’s best dress. Most of the stands were a bunch of cheap Polo knock offs.
However, a man finally approached us and he taps me on the shoulder lightly
and says, “Suit?” He nodded his head upwards and said it again, “Suit?” My initial
reaction was to just tell this guy to politely fuck off because I generally don’t like
solicitors, but after I thought about it, suits were just what we needed. So, I agreed to
go to the man’s shop. When we stepped in, we were instantly rewarded with brisk
air flowing from the air conditioning unit on the wall.
There was a man sitting in a chair who seemed to be waiting for something. He
began to size me up out of the corner of my eye. This guy didn’t know what to make
of me. After a half minute, or so, of looking me up and down, he turns to the customs
officer and begins speaking in Farsi. I had no idea what they were saying. I could
only imagine what he must have said. “Hey. Are you with this snow flake?”
After a few minutes of listening to them converse, the tailor approaches me and
tells me to come back to his desk. He handed me a nicely covered book of suit styles
and asked me to pick out the style I wanted. When I grabbed the book, I asked him,
“about how long does it take to have the suits made?”
“For you? I make it 2 days”
As I looked through the book, it occurred to me that this wasn’t going to work. We
needed clothes tonight. I looked up and said, “Two days isn’t going to work for me. Is
there anything that you have pre-made that might fit us?”
“You must be an American! You guys are always in such a hurry for things you want,
you know?” I was partially insulted by what he said, but the more I thought about it,
the more right he seemed.
I responded in the only way I knew how, “You guessed it!”
The tailor gave me a smile and a thumbs up. He pointed back at the man who was
sitting in the chair when we walked in and said something in Farsi. Like always, I
didn’t know what they were saying exactly, but you’d be surprised how much you
can tell about a conversation you don’t understand. It was clear they were talking
about me. And it seemed to me that the things they were saying couldn’t be good
He looked back down at me and said with a crooked smile, “I think I have what you
are looking for. Good price too.”
Even though I knew the man was taking advantage of me, I listened to what he had
to say and he brought out a pretty standard black suit.
I went to the fitting room and tried it on. The suit didn’t exactly fit like a glove, but
to the untrained eye, it was good enough to pass as classy. I came out of the fitting
room, stopped, lifted my arms and said, “I’ll take it!” They tailor clapped his hands
“Ahhh you look like a million bucks, good sir”
“Haha! Damn right I do… Look out Tehran! There is a new sheriff in town!”
“How do you mean?” The tailor looked at me inquisitively.
“Oh… Sorry. That’s just something we say in the US. It more or less means, ‘I’m the
new boss’ “
“I seeeee! Then your Farsi name shall be Sharif! Sharif it is!”
The tailor called back to the man in the chair and the customs officer, “Hello! I would
like you to meet from friend Sharif! He comes from the United States and he is a very
good man.” I gave the tailor a nod with a humbled smile.
From across the room I hear, “Where is mine, Sharif?”
SHIT! How could I have forgotten about the customs officer? He was the whole
damn reason we were here.
“Yes! We need to get that man back there one too.”
“Ohhhhhh!” The tailor suddenly lost a little color in is face and then just as quickly
as his smile retreated, a burst of laughter came out from him and he said, “We only
have one more suit ready to go.” He walked into his back room and out can a baby
blue tuxedo. My first thought was that there was no way anyone would take us
seriously if he wore this tux, but then I just went with it. “Yes! Try it on, officer!”
“Hey… You can call me Amir.” The officer said as he walked passed me towards the
When Amir came out of the fitting room, his face looked a little unsure. I took a look
at the suit and I could see where his trepidation came from. He certainly stood out.
But perhaps this is just what he needed to match all the attention (not necessarily
good attention) I was going to get for being so clearly not Persian.
“You look great!”
“You mean that, Sharif? Don’t you think it’s a little too much?”
“Hey… Do you want to do this your way, or the American way?”
“You’re right! You’re absolutely right! I shall take this one then!”
“Ahhhh yes! Of course! Don’t worry. The man in the chair? I was talking while you
were talking to the tailor. He is the promoter of the hottest club in Tehran. He is
putting us on the VIP list tonight.”
Less than an hour ago, I was pinching myself so I could awake from a nightmare, and
now, I didn’t care if what was happening was real or not real. I just didn’t want it
to end. I couldn’t believe it. I got a free cab ride from the airport into the city, a free
suit, and I’m getting put on the VIP list at Tehran’s hottest club.
“Well hellllllll yeah, Amir!” I reached up to give him a high five. He looked at me with
a puzzled look, put his hand up and awkwardly smacked mine. Then he tried to copy
my hell yeah, body language and all. It was atrocious.
We had decided to get some dinner and drinks before we headed downtown. It
was a really nice time. We really connected, actually. I got to hear about Amir’s
family and his life story. For having a job that requires you to be an asshole by day,
he really was just a normal good-hearted man. This is what I loved most about
traveling. No matter how far you go, no matter how different things look, people
are still people and they share the same desire to care about others. By the end of
our dinner, it was almost as if our goals had changed. We were so excited about
getting to know each other, that I forgot to act cool, and he forgot to act like me.
Before either of us knew, we were just too assholes in a bar wearing a suit and a tux
minding our own business.
We sat in the bar until almost one o’clock and both of us were a little drunk.
“I guess we should go see if that club is any good, huh?”
“Meh… Why not?”
© Copyright 2016 RandyLahey. All rights reserved.