Markus Stocker bio photo

Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

Email Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Github

A few months ago–it was around Christmas, so perhaps more than a few–I had the sweet idea of sending azizam a panettone. She likes the sweet bread loaf with candied fruits and raisins. I contacted my favorite panetteria pasticceria (a bakery, anonymous, read on to understand why) in Ticino and asked if it is possible to send a panettone to Iran, noting that I couldn’t pick it up myself and mail it, because I am in Finland.

“Of course, and we will bring it to the post office,” the panettone master chef replied.

I think he would have brought it to the post office even without me trying to appeal to the Italian sense for romance by explicitly underscoring that it is all for love.

The panettone was sent and arrived, eventually.

More than a month after my wire transfer, when the panettone was long gone, I got a letter from my Finnish bank noting that the monies had not been transferred and were returned to my account. The letter solicited me to call the branch manager. So I did. The Finnish branch manager asked me some rather weird questions about panettone, Ticino, Iran, and who am I anyway. I complied, and explained what a panettone is, why it was sent from Ticino to Iran, and made sure to note that it is all for love.

Then I started to ask myself, while continuing the phone conversation, how on earth did the branch manager of the Finnish bank know that the transaction was for a panettone and that it was sent to Iran. After all, there was a digital gap between bank accounts and the post office.

The conversation went on and made me wonder if my all for love sweet bread loaf inadvertently triggered a diplomatic crisis between three countries. Until … I recalled that, naively perhaps, my thank-you message to the master chef, which I added to the transaction, included the word “Iran.” The branch manager confirmed that this was sufficient to block the transaction. In disbelieve, I thought, and perhaps said: Mitä?

After suggesting to repeat the transaction, this time without the word “Iran,” the branch manager ended the conversation, encouraging me to stop by personally the next time I visit the branch. I have yet to do that. Perhaps I shouldn’t, I doubt they will serve me panettone and sparkling wine.

The master chef received the monies, eventually.

This is how far our paranoia has gone. I am proud to counteract by building a rainbow over it.

In the meanwhile I have been to Iran, my passport is stamped with an Iranian visa, and in about a month I will travel to the US to a scientific conference.

Will I travel below the radar?

Wish me luck, for customs more than the talk.

Thanks H.Z. for the title of this post.