When they gave me my new passport at the counter, there was another man’s passport underneath it. I picked it up along with my own. Did I do this on purpose? Or was it an accident? I’m not sure. But I took both passports. The documents went in my briefcase and I quickly walked out of the building.
Later, back in the privacy of my office, I looked at the other passport. The name inside was Frank Marksman. The passport seemed identical to mine, but thicker, with additional pages. It turned out it was a passport for a truck driver; now that I looked closer, I could see the words “truck driver” on the bottom corner of the passport cover. I assumed the extra pages were to accommodate his frequent border crossings.
The picture of Frank was rather ordinary. A fat man, in his 40s (which was roughly the same age as me), with thinning hair, blue eyes, a lined face. Nothing remarkable about him.
What should I do with this passport? Presumably Frank was at the counter at the passport office, waiting for it to be handed to him. The clerk behind the counter would at some point realize it was missing. He would no doubt blame himself. Frank would get mad. There would be a commotion and many apologies from the clerk. They might tear the office apart, looking for the passport, perplexed at what could have possibly happened.
Obviously I should take the passport back to the passport office, see that it was given to Frank. That would be the right thing to do. But instead, I sat in my office, staring at it.
Maybe I took it on purpose. I’m not sure myself. And how would I explain the situation if I did return it? Of course I’d tell them it was a mistake. They handed me two passports instead of one and I didn’t notice. Would they believe me? Would I believe my own words as I spoke them? Some uncertainty might show on my face, as I made excuses. Were they excuses? Would my guilt give me away? Did I have something to give away? Why should I feel guilty?
Even considering all of this felt like too much bother, too complicated, too risky. Throw the passport away; that, I decided, was the real solution. None of this was my concern. It was a mistake. And even if it wasn’t a mistake, but an act of theft, so what? They’d never catch me. I’d throw the passport away and that would be the end…