So remember back then when I was saying about how I jokingly thought I was due a run of really bad luck for all the nice times I was having in Barcelona and France? You don’t? Well read the posts below first silly or this will all be in the wrong order. Anyway, how we laughed right? Good job nothing bad happened after that then isn’t it?
Oh, OK, Here’s how it goes…
Booked a flight back to the US for the next 3 month stint and left bright eyed and bushy tailed on Thursday. Managed to do the online check in so when I got to Heathrow, getting through to departures was a breeze, literally took only 5 minutes from arriving in a cab to sitting in departures sipping a cappuccino. Mmmmmmm coffee and efficiency, what a fine combination. The flight passed easily too. 8 hours of minor boredom (not helped by Keanu Reeves in the appallingly badly scripted Constantine, and the disappointing sequel of the year that is Meet The Fockers.) But hey it was all cool and relaxed and the flight zipped by.
Then I got to immigration bought to you by the cuddly people at the new Department Of Homeland Security. Up to the desk with people barking orders unpleasantly at the line of fresh faced British holiday types, and then the usual questions from the girl in the uniform; what are you doing here? Where are you staying? How much money have you got with you? Blah, blah, blah… And then something different. The guy who had been silently standing behind her leaned forward and started to advise her. Horror! She was a trainee! And before I knew it another innocuous sounding phrase, “That’s fine sir, we’re just going to take you in there where someone will ask you a couple more questions.” OK, so far, no major alarm bells, she’s a trainee so she’s getting put through her paces. Go with it and stay cool.
So in we go to the secondary immigration waiting room where many Asian and Arabic people are sitting looking sad and confused, surrounded by their luggage in the waiting area and I’m asked to take a seat and someone will call me up shortly. OK, well hope it doesn’t take too long. I’m being picked up at arrivals you know…
10 minutes later my names called and up I dutifully go, all smiles and politeness. I know how to deal with these types you know. Shit, not this guy I don’t. He’s a big mean looking monkey with piggy little eyes, a moustache and a gun. And now he’s telling me that I’m spending a long time in the US, so I explain my story, the quitting of job, the mortgaging and renting of house and the holiday of a lifetime exploring his great country. I laid it on thick with the flattery of course.
“So it’s true to say that you are currently living in America sir?” Woooaaaah there fella, no that’s not true, I’m a travelling British type just checking it out, got friends here you see, been to Sarasota, Burlington, Ann Arbor, New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago. I’ve been everywhere man and this time I’m off to Ann Arbor then up to New York again, then Boston, and hopefully to Burlington and Sarasota as well, maybe Tampa too. Travelling you see? Wherever I lay my hat etc.?
“Sir you have been resident in the US for the past year.”, ahem no, no I haven’t. I came over early September to early December, then mid Jan to Mid April and now I’ve just arrived back. Only been here six months really of the last year.
“Sir, you came here summer last year and you intend to leave summer this year. That seems like a year to me.” No, No, let me take you through the maths, six months you see? One three is three, two threes are six etc. With me?
“Sir step away from the desk and take a seat, we will call you again when we’re ready.”
This is looking decidedly not good I thought. And I thought right as for the next 4 and a half hours I had 3 different good ole boys of the DOHS asking me the same or similar questions, all with equally bad maths, or “math” as they would call it. I was photographed every which way repeatedly, finger printed, made to unpack and repack twice and told that “Sir, if you continue to lie to us it will not do your case any good”. SHIT, I’ve got a case! That’s never a good thing! And hey! I ain’t lying!
Then off to another little side interview office and the very nice Officer Trevor Brooks, my case worker. I don’t want a case worker. I don’t have a case. I’m just passing on through right? Wrong. Still, he was friendlier than the rest and asked me questions which I answered honestly (it’s the best policy you know, much better than the Mutually Assured Destruction one that they favoured in the 60’s through to the 80’s) constantly thinking, it’s all a mistake, it’ll all be over soon. It wasn’t.
“Sir, what we are going to do is to hold you as an inadmissible alien. Do you understand?” Hmmmm, not sure that I do but is it somewhere in the area of “let’s have a nice cup of tea and a laugh about all this, possibly ending with you offering an apology for taking my time and a cheery wave to send me on my way out of the building?”
“Sir, I believe you have been helpful to us and as such I will allow you to leave here now and on your own recognisance to report back here at 1pm tomorrow when you will be interviewed further and then at 6:30 pm take your return flight to your home country. The visa you have is valid but we believe that you are attempting to immigrate into the US by using a tourist visa. That being the case you must leave and apply for the correct visa.” Wuhuh? Me immigrate into here? For why? I come from the land of 5 week holiday allowances as standard, free healthcare, free-ish education, easy travel between the sun-drenched, wine-soaked, cute-girled member states of the EU and a full welfare safety net. Think of what our nation stands for. Books from Boot’s and country lanes. Free speech, free passes, class distinction, democracy and proper drains etc.
Balls. It was all true. They think I’m a Mexican trying to sneak in and get a job flipping burgers in the land of opportunity so I can send money home to Juanita and my 17 mewling kids…
So one night, call it 15 hours of quality freedom time in the US, before reporting back for 5 hours of incarceration in immigration, being told that I could not return to the US on a tourist visa ever again, then being marched most embarrassingly onto a full BA plane, passportless for the pilot has that and he can’t give it back to me until we’re back on British soil, and sitting confusedly staring out of the window as we taxied off to Berlighty. Then half way through the flight, the old guy sitting next to me has a heart attack and slumps to the floor of the aisle and I end up holding his legs up in the air to get the blood to his brain and barking at 20 or so clueless American women to back off and give the guy some air while a nurse administers resuscitation and oxygen at the other end, and then we try to land at Heathrow but the landing gear doesn’t work so we spend an hour circling London at nauseating angles, listening sweaty palmed to the tortured whine of the landing gear motors straining heroically to do their job, which fortunately, eventually they do with a gut wrenchingly scary banging noise. And then I’m outside Arrivals in the British rain and my heads spinning and my mouths dry and there’s an industrial sized lump in my throat and it doesn’t feel good to be back.
Best £600 quid I ever spent for a night out.