In the eighties I lived for several years in Cartegena, Colombia. When I first arrived there I was single and very much into photography, especially after seeing the beautiful Latinas in that country. After I had been there for a few months and was getting to know people, I received a visit from the local tourist magazine representative. He asked me if I would patrol the beaches and take photos of some of the beautiful girls there for the front page of the magazine. It was a filthy job, but someone had to do it...Yeah right! They issued a Press card to me so not only would this give me a wonderful pick up line to use on any of the girls I fancied but it had fringe benefits that I was not at the time aware of.
The next few weeks I duly went around taking photos and really enjoyed it, meeting some wonderful girls and some really nice people. One day I decided to take a trip to a neighbouring city. In Colombia, there were often check points entering a city and often the police would try to find something a little wrong with your vehicle so that they could persuade you to give them a little tip. I arrived at one and, as the officer was circling my vehicle I decided to try a little experiment.
“Could I ask your name Sir,” I said to him. He wanted to know why.
“Well,” I lied, holding out my Press card, “We are doing a story on corruption and I am writing about my experiences as I travel from city to city.”
He blinked a couple of times. “Siga,” he said finally waving me on. He couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. “That was interesting,” I thought to myself. I could see that people really didn’t want to give out their names or to be quoted. I tried the same thing in a couple of other situations with similar effect. I was now not just showing the Press card but rather holding it under my thumb and thumping it down in front of people with much better effect.
One day I stayed at a hotel in Barranquilla. It was rather full and the room that they gave me had a piece of board nailed over the window making it look like a cave. I was too tired to argue and just went to sleep. The next morning, I paid the bill and asked to speak to the manager. Sitting in his office, I told him about the blocked window and explained that I thought that it was not a very good advertisement for his hotel with it’s expensive rates. He was not too interested, just telling me that the maid had broken the window and that his rates were authorized by the tourist department.
“Is that your name,” I asked him, pointing to the plaque on his desk.
“Yes, why do you ask?” he inquired.
I took out my card and thumped it on his desk. “Well,” I explained. “We are doing a story on tourist hotel accommodation and I wanted to make sure that I had your name correct when I relate my experiences.”
His face drained colour a little. “Oh,” he asked finally. “They didn’t charge you for the room did they?” I showed him my receipt.
“Caramba,” he said. “I gave them strict instructions not to charge for that room while the window was blocked off.”
He left the office for a moment and returned with the money I had paid, insisting that I take it.
When I used to go to the airport to meet any friends, I would show the card and I would be escorted right up to the aircraft staircase. If I needed to fly and the flight was full, they would find room for me somewhere or stick me in with the pilot. I was having a ball with this Press card
I even used the card in the UK one day during a visit home. Akai had just come out with the first portable video recorder of which I was the proud owner of one. I lugged it to the horse racing track to try it out. As I was in line, waiting to pay the entrance fee, an official approached me.
“Are you with the Press?” he enquired.
“Er... oh, er... yes I am,” I answered hesitatingly. “Actually I am on assignment from South America covering British sports.” He took my arm and steered me to the Press box where they had tea and sandwiches laid out. This was much better than out there among the peasants! The other reporters were quite impressed with my equipment as, thanks to my previous acting experience, I proceeded to take video and record my commentary like a real reporter. Such is the power of the Press.
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Article Added on Sunday, April 11, 2010
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