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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

An Ode to the Snake With a Red Beehive

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Remember the commercial for an anti-balding treatment that makes your hair grow back? The one where the guy misses his plane to some unbelievably warm place (I was always sadistically happy about that — guys who artificially grow their hair back don’t deserve to go to warm places) because the passport control officer doesn’t know what to make of the hair difference between the guy and his passport picture?

I am that guy. Well, not really. First of all, I grow my own hair, thank you very much. Second, I did not, in the end, miss my plane (to a not-so-warm place called London). Third, I am not a guy. (See that picture up there? That’s me).

But all this did not prevent the lady with a red beehive and a blue border-guard uniform at Sheremetyevo Airport passport control from torturing me. She must have seen the hair commercial one too many times.

The picture in my traveling passport was taken a year ago, about a month after I stopped crew-cutting my hair. What happens to the hair after you’ve crew-cut it for a while is that it grows at an incredible speed. My hair grew down to my shoulders in a year. But the beehive lady was not convinced by this simple and truthful explanation.

"Are you sure it’s you and not your twin sister?" she asked.

I am sure, not least because I don’t have a twin sister. To prove that I’m me, I volunteer my internal passport. This is when it turns out that I forgot to update the photograph in it. I was supposed to do so when I turned 25, which was in October. The only photograph in the passport is a 16-year-old Badkhen — with very long hair. Oops.

"But it was so recently," I mumble, feebly.

"What was recently?" the Inquisitor in Blue demands. Her nails are unnaturally long. Does she use them to poke her victims’ eyes out, or to scratch them so that they bleed to death, right there, by the control booth?

"My birthday."

This puts her on alert. What does this mean, recently, if the conversation is taking place in December? (This brings us back to Einstein’s theory of relativity, and I am almost willing to discuss it with her except that I really want to make it to London.)

"When is your birthday?" the woman demands, temporarily turning into a snake and hypnotizing me with her gaze.

"Oct. 10, 1975." I know when my damn birthday is. This is getting ridiculous, and I start laughing.

The beehived snake is not amused. She wants to know if I have more documents. Finally, a St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly press pass (1996) and The Moscow Times ID (2000, same picture as in the traveling passport) persuade her.

"OK. This time, I’ll let you get away with this," she hisses. Ah, goddess of passport control! May you always look this sexy in your uniform and may your beehive always be this delightful shade of red! May you judge people not by their hair, but by their ears, for example (now, here’s something you can’t legitimately claim to have grown 30 centimeters in a year!).

And may you always run out of your lonely booth, clicking your heels down the tiled floors of post-passport control at Sheremetyevo, carrying the tickets, numerous passports and press cards to the One Who Got Away. Because when you released me, I absentmindedly abandoned all my documents on the windowsill of your torture chamber.

You must have this effect on people.

Anna Badkhen is a reporter for The Boston Globe.