Paper or plastic?

This item appears on page 55 of the February 2013 issue.

Tell ITN about the funniest thing that ever happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. The ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.

This month’s winner is GLORIA HELMUTH of Tulsa, OK:

My husband, Ed, and I visited the Arabian Gulf area in November 2012. Upon first arriving at the Doha, Qatar, airport, we entered the queue to go through the Immigration line. As we handed the clerk our passports, she looked at our faces to match them with our photos, then asked, “Do you have a visa?”

“No, we need to buy one,” we responded.

She repeated the question as though she didn’t hear our answer, and we again replied, “No, we need to buy one.”

After asking a third time, with the same answer, she looked around for help, summoned a young man to the counter and spoke to him in Arabic. He turned to us and asked, “Do you have a vee-sa?”

From the manner in which he pronounced “visa,” this time I answered, “Do you mean a Visa credit card?”

He nodded his head, and I asked, “Would a MasterCard work?”

He nodded again and, in about three minutes, visas for our stay in Qatar were stamped into our passports.

The moral of this story — in parts of the Arabic world, “visa” may be the generic word for “credit card.”