Travels interrupted

I made off-hand mention in a comment to Hezaasan in one of her posts about how my world-wide traipsing about came to a sudden and quick and sudden demise. She’d ask me to tell more of the sad and sordid tale, so… Although I said that it will probably be too long of a story for too short of an event, she told me she wanted to hear it anyway. Oh! How foolish!

I’ve debated this afternoon exactly where I wanted to start the tale because, like all stories, it doesn’t really have a beginning or end. I could start in the middle of the flight to England, but that seems to lose some of the context. I could start at where I had youthful dreams of seeing the world, from the pyramids to the North Pole, but that seems too early in the tale. I could start during the trip planning stages, and that’s about right, but I decided to go just to a year or so earlier when I was dating someone that I’ll just call Z.

Let’s see, Z is one of those women who never really left my mind. She was a child prodigy, about to graduate from University at eighteen with three degrees when I met her. She was a first generation Russian who spoke without a hint of accent and, just for shits and giggles was working towards her commercial pilot’s license and was the only woman at the time that I knew that had a pierced nose (this was in the 80s), with two-tone blonde/black hair and dressed trash-vogue-punk.

I met her at an all-age night at First Avenue, a club made famous by its appearance in Purple Rain. When she told me her name, I laughed and thought she was pulling my leg (it is a pretentious-sounding name until you found out her parents were both Russian). She showed me her driver’s ID and I ate a hearty helping of crow that night. I also fell ass-over-teakettle in love with her almost instantly.

We started going steady after our first date. I think it might have been pity on her part. Or I was slightly interesting.

Anyway, during several of our all-night cuddle-and-chat sessions (no outright sex, that was also part of her enchantment), we got into fantasizing about our plans for the future and we both had decided that we would love to travel the world together, largely as vagabonds and drifters. We mapped out our journey through Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the “Old Country” (both of our families came from a region near the Black Sea), cross through Afghanistan and Iraq (skipping Iran) and into the Himalayan countries, and onward through Asia to Japan.

Luck, however, has never cared to grace me and our relationship lasted about five or six months before I started to bore her ( I think, she never said exactly her reasons other than I was a pleasant distraction and she needed to refocus herself for some grand plan she refused to share with anyone). Before we broke up, she kissed me and promised me that we’d probably find each other in some far off land in a manner filled with serendipity and reunite as passionate lovers.

Or something to that effect (Spoiler: it hasn’t happened yet and I don’t expect that to change).

Anyway, fast-forward a year or so and, in my deluded hopelessly romantic troubadour way, I thought I could move things along a little faster by setting out to see the world and somehow triggering this foretold reunion. I was dating other women at the time, but I had not gotten over carrying a torch for Z yet. Yes, my main motivation was to try and make some fantasy over a woman I adored become real by poking at the Fates. Older me looks at younger me and falls off his stool laughing laughing laughing…

I also happened to have a pen-pal I’d been writing to for going on about four or five years at the time and I thought traipsing around the world would have a grand start by visiting her in England as my first stop. Bev had a younger sister who was a Stuffie (Wonder Stuff fan) and her younger sister had a group of friends who planned to caravan all over Europe that summer catching the lads as they played wherever their tour was taking them. I had transport and companions and I was going to see a shit-tonne of concerts after chatting it up with Bev in person in Stoke for a few days or weeks (that part was unclear). Bev had bought me tickets to Fields of the Nephilm, Mission UK and the first couple of Wonder Stuff gigs, and I promised to pay her back when I arrived.

I sold most of my stuff (no intention of coming back), stuffed my backpack full of cassettes, clothes, a pocketknife (they always come in handy and this was before 9/11) and four cartons of smokes, an important detail which will reveal itself later.

I bought a one-way ticket to London Gatwick and hopped on my plane, the woman I was dating crying as she watched me board the plane (though we weren’t steady — I’d told her of my plans and didn’t want entanglements holding me back).

The flight? Uneventful, although I didn’t sleep a whit. There was a baby crying near me and I was too excited to sleep.

I was all smiles as I landed, my grand adventure now commenced!

I got up to the customs desk, plopped my carry-on backpack onto their desk while they scrutinized me, looking at my long, curly blonde hair, hippy tie-dye shirt, frayed jeans, combat boots and ear-to-ear smile. And he frowned.

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

“To visit a friend in Stoke-on-Trent, hook up with her sister and her sisters friends and chase the Wonder Stuff on tour. She was going to let me stay with her for a bit before her sister and I traveled about”

“Uh huh.” He still frowned. “And how do you intend to leave our country?”

“I hadn’t decided sir,” I replied, hoping the honorific would ease up on that frown. It didn’t. “I was going to the mainland to do the same thing with the same folks and keep going until I ran out of cash.”

“You only have five hundred pounds with you in traveler’s cheques and another two hundred in bank notes. What do you intend to do when you run out of cash?”

“Have my parents wire me some more until my savings runs out. Don’t want to carry too much with me — that’s kind of foolish.”

“You don’t have credit cards?”

“Umm, no….?” The frown was starting to concern me, then all this talk about money. My parents did have all my savings and were going to wire it to me if I needed it. And a ticket home if I got sick of my Romani living arrangements.

“Right, then. Anything in this… bag…. to declare?” He had a sour look on his face.

“Just cigarettes, sir. Personal use.”

“Right.” He opened up the bag and took out the briefcase I kept my cassettes in. It was designed for such things and had slots to keep the cassettes organized. “What, may I ask is this?”

I told him.

“Right.”

He then preceded to take out each and every cassette out of its slot, then case and empty it out on his table, inspecting each tape as if it were explosives. This was not going well at all… He left them on the table as he opened the next and repeated his inspection. Then the next. By the end, he had 36 cassette tapes in one pile and 36 cassette cases in another.

Then, he took the plastic form that organized the cassettes within the case and pried it out with some tool he had on hand. “Is this really necessary?” I asked. He ignored me.

After confirming I had no contraband hidden in the backside of the plastic organizer, he started displaying my clothes to everyone who was also standing in line. Turning pockets and socks out, holding my underwear to the ceiling lights. As each thing was inspected, it went into a third pile of clothes.

He set the cigarettes aside (which were at the bottom of the bag. And then he felt around every seam and thick spot in the backpack (an old army surplus thing). And then he laid it down. His frown had grown even deeper.

“Right then, put it away.” He called someone over to watch me and went to talk to his supervisor.

I was half-way putting things back in order and packing it when this guy, his supervisor and a police officer came over. Oh fuck, was all I thought. I shouldn’t have brought over so many cigarettes.

“No time for that, mate,” the cop said. “Just shove it in and come with me.”

I did as I was told, although it only barely fit unfolded and disorganized as it was. He lead me to an empty room with a table and two chairs. “Wait here.”

I waited. And waited. And waited.

I knocked on the door and someone opened it. A different cop.

“I’ve gotta pee, man. Can I use the bathroom while I wait?

He nodded and lead me to a stall with no door. Now, don’t get me wrong, but I’m one of those shy pissers. I can’t use a urinal most of the time — can’t stand to have anyone near me when I piss. So I go to a stall. If I’m having a particularly shy moment, I need to close the stall door. I straddled up and got ready to piss, but was having a difficult time because the cop was basically riding my ass and watching me.

“A little privacy?”

“No.” And that was the end of that. No further discussion was encouraged.

So I thought about lily-pads floating on an ocean while a waterfall cascaded next to me and I could finally pee.

And then I was escorted back to the empty room to wait some more.

[Hezaasan, you asked for this, remember?]

I’d about decided to get out my pocket knife and stab my eyes out when, six hours after I landed, the door opened and the first cop came in with someone new. He asked me all the same questions the customs guys asked and I answered them all the same, as far as I knew.

He shook his head.

“I’m going to ask you a question, lad. And I want a truthful answer.”

I nodded, ready to be on with my life.

“Where are the drugs?”

I blinked. And stared. And blinked again.

“There are no drugs. I don’t care for them, so I don’t have any.”

“I told you I needed a truthful answer. Where are the drugs? Are they up your arse? Should I order an inspection?”

“Dude, there are no drugs, and there is certainly none up my ass.”

He pulled out my passport, an inking pad and a stamp. He made a dramatic presentation of stamping my passport as loudly as he could and then showed me what it said.

“IMMIGRATION DENIED”

“But… I don’t… I…”

“We don’t like liars, Mr. Raven [this is my pen name, he used my real name.] This isn’t America and we don’t like smugglers and we don’t like drug addicts.”

“But… I… ” He held up a hand to cut me off.

“We’re sending you back to the States to deal with you. Maybe they’ll check your arsehole for drugs, but I don’t care to. Now the only question remaining is just how much you are willing to contribute to your plane ticket home. You are under no obligation to pay anything, I am required to advise you, as we will seek reimbursement from the embassy if you do not contribute. However, it may go better for you if you pay something when you get home when they prosecute you.”

“I — “

“How much, Mr. Raven? I’m not interested in anything but that.”

I stared. He stared. The cop stared.

“I’m not going to PAY ONE FUCKING RED CENT YOU FUCKING LIMEY!” I said, standing up as I shouted. “I CAME HERE ON HOLIDAY, NOT TO SMUGGLE DRUGS I DON’T USE, BUT TO GO TO A FEW CONCERTS, SEE SOME SIGHTS, HEAD TO FRANCE! You can take your plane ticket and my passport and shove it up your ass sideways for all I care. FUCK! YOU!”

The cop put me into a hold meant to hurt and he escorted me in this pin right up to the gate to the first plane heading for the US (New York, as it so happened) forced me to sit in my seat on the plane, standing over me while all the other passengers stared at the criminal being deported, until my bag arrived and was put into the overflow cargo and then he told the stewardess to make sure I stayed seated before deplaning.

Eight hours later, I was sitting in a similar office to the one I had recently departed under force and a woman came in about five minutes after I arrived.

“I’ve received copies of your records from your deportation. I know what they reported, care to tell me your version of events?”

So I told her pretty much what I told you, including the swearing and yelling parts. She shook her head.

“The Brits would have a shitfit if we treated one of their citizens like they treated you. Did you have any contraband?”

“I had too many smokes.”

“No drugs?”

“No.”

She sighed. “Assholes.”

She signed some paperwork, handed me my passport and my luggage. “You’ve got about two hours to kill before your flight back to Minneapolis. Go grab a Coke or something.” She gave me change for it. “I’m sorry they treated you like crap. They had no probable cause, they must not have liked the hippie look you’re sporting.”

Epilogue

That’s largely it, except that it took me quite a few letters and sending cash in the mail to Bev. I was obligated to pay for the tickets to the shows, though she had buyers. But it was damage control. Apparently, the authorities weren’t content to mess up my grand adventure, but they had used half-truths to test my story with her and left her with the impression I was a grifter who planned to stay with her until her family kicked me out forcibly. They told her [perhaps prematurely] that I was caught smuggling drugs upon entry and had a record [I did?] of such activity. As it was, the pen-pal relationship became largely one-sided afterwards and I eventually gave up.

My grand, worldwide adventure lasted all of six hours in the Gatwick Airport….

About ten years ago I went to Scotland to see a friend get married to his Scottish bride. I was nervous as hell as I was going through customs, expecting them to point out my previous “Immigration Denied” stamp.

I walked up to the table.

“Anything to declare?”

“No, but I can show y–“

“Your tickets show return in a week. Have a great stay.”

STAMP. “Next!”

My passport had a visa. He didn’t even check my bags.

3 thoughts on “Travels interrupted”

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