(Read: Hardened Criminal. Read: Undesirable.)

Lied? No shit. Of course I did. I was talking to a fucking US Immigration Officer (read: emotionless. Read: mechanical. Read: Intimidation).

Have you ever been in the United States for longer than 90 days?

No Sir.

The Sir is of the utmost importance. The last thing you want to do when dealing with someone who has been indoctrinated to believe he is the last bastion of defence against the terrorists is to let him think he’s not in control, you’re not meek and subservient, which of course you are. Despite your private disdain for the lack of humanity inherent in such self-righteous institutions, images of Guantanamo Bay flash like a strobe light across your brain.

Waiting. One of the greatest tools in the discouragement kit. Waiting. They employ this against all non-residents. Actually (this comes later) they use it against legal residents also).

He’s playing solitaire. I know it. Unless. Of course, he’s checking me against The List (read: Terrorists. Read: Muslims. Read: Aliens. Read: Evil).

You need to take this. Hands me my passport, customs form etc, etc. Down the end of the hall. Give this to the officer there.

What’s going on?

Give this to the officer there.

Asshole. (Read: Whispered).

I should’ve known the petty bureaucrat at the State Dept. lied. Hey, everyone does it. I’m doing it right now. So the three days I stayed over my visa clearly was going to matter, despite the assertion to the contrary “they” gave me before I stayed those extra three days. Have you ever been in the United States for longer than ninety days? No Sir.

In the Secondary Immigration Office (read: interrogation room. Read: sweating.) the afore mentioned officer is obviously new on the job (read: smile). Plump black woman. Seems genuinely concerned with my plight.

What’s going on? Are they going to let me in?

I don’t know yet. You’ll have to wait, but there’s a good chance they’ll send you home.

But not that new on the job. They? You’re one of they. Disarming. Clever. On my side?

But my fiancé is out there waiting for me. We’re going to a wedding tomorrow morning.

I sorry Sir, you’ll just have to wait.

The Sir is unnecessary. Patronising in my aggravation, impatience. But definitely somewhat new on the job (read: minor display of emotion). Back to the discouragement handbook. Waiting. Hangover’s are bad enough. Airport hangover’s worse. Immigration hangover’s dire. Dehydrating fluids, lack of sufficient water, thirteen hour flight, dehydrated air, recycled air (read: extreme irritability).

Discouragement handbook secret weapon: Immigration Supervisor. Low talking, only a few captured words.

Doesn’t know what’s going on. Seems pretty distraught.

Mistake: emotions, aliens, boss. Not a good mix. Besides, senior officer has McDonald’s (read: hungry. Read: uninterested). She gets no response, and he carries his heart attack (read: hope) into his office and doesn’t shut the door. Waiting.

Time equals thought. Waiting equals paranoia. Hungover equals lack of thought. Something not quite working here.

Excuse me.

Yes Sir?

I need to let my fiancé know what is happening. She should be in the baggage claim area. Can you contact her?

I’ll see what we can do.

Waiting. Immigration Officer training rule No. 1: Do not divulge information (any information) to aliens, legal or otherwise.

Rule No. 1 Implementation scenario: Falsifying telephone conversation.

I’m sorry Sir, we cannot locate your fiancé.

Okay. Sure.

Yeah Sure. This is bullshit. (Read: Internal monologue).

Waiting. An hour. Two.

Immigration front desk Officer (afore mentioned asshole) enters. Discussion ensues between Mrs Friendly Officer, Asshole, and Supervisor. Somewhere along the path of Officer Training must come the How to Talk Without Being Heard by Aliens segment. Six feet away, and I can’t make out a word.

Please come this way Sir.

Interrogation Room. Unfortunately without any class. Want dark room with single light overhead. Want shadowy figures, hard-boiled noir dialogue, just outside the circle of light. Want “Ve hav vays of makink you talk”. At least I have The Asshole (read: Muscles. Read: devoid of humanity).

Fingerprinting. Ink. Electronic fingerprinting. Questions. Silence. Waiting. Questions.

You have been found inadmissible pursuant to Statute blah, blah, blah.

You can take a seat no Sir.

I thought I was sitting. Oh, a seat out there. In the Waiting Room. Funny that.

Waiting. Frustration. Connecting Flight.

Excuse me.

Yes Sir?

This is unacceptable. My fiancé is out there in the airport, probably worried sick. She has a connecting flight to catch in twenty minutes. I have been in here for three and a half hours and she has no idea where I am. This is not okay. You need to get her on the phone now!

I’ll see what we can do.

Apparently she has had a talking to while I was being interrogated. (Read: Chastised. Read: Emotionless).

You can take the call on that phone over there Sir.

Under a minute. And yet previously they couldn’t locate her. Coincidental.

They’re sending me home babe… No, there’s nothing we can do… I know it’s unfair… It’s bullshit… Heather, there’s nothing we can do… I don’t know… Apparently I am no longer eligible to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program… I guess… If he wants to, but an immigration lawyer is going to tell him the same thing… No, I have to apply for a visa from outside the country… There’s no point in missing the flight babe, it’s not going to change anything… No just go baby, I’ll call you when I get home… Yeah… Love you… Bye.

 

Hangover turns to exhaustion. Lack of sleep. Wandering thoughts. Waking dead.

I become aware that the Supervisor is talking to the father-in-law.

The last I was aware Sir, your daughter was getting on her connecting flight… Sir I’m sorry Sir, but there is nothing I can do… Sir there is no provision under this program to allow him into the country… No Sir… Sir… Excuse me Sir… Look, I don’t have to take this sort of abuse… Good day sir.

Nice work Lou. I wonder if he broke his phone slamming it down.

Waiting. Half asleep.

Enter the Transferring Officer. (Read: Brick Shit-House).

Sir, I have to take you to another terminal, to wait for your flight home.

Okay.

I have to inform you Sir, that I will have to place you in handcuffs.

Really?

Uh huh.

Cool.

And I need you to give me your belt and your shoe laces.

What?

I need your belt and your shoe laces Sir.

Oh, so I don’t hang myself in the cell right?

Yeah that’s it. You know the drill brother.

(Read: America the Promised Land. Read: So desperate to be here).

This is fucking cool. Somewhere in the haze of waiting and discouragement I seem to have lost my irritation. Time to enjoy this.

Marched through the terminal in handcuffs. Shuffling in lace-less boots. Unshaven. (read: Junky. Read: Hardened Criminal. Read: stares. Read: great amusement).

Terminal 5.

Hey man, can I have a cigarette before we go in?

No time.

Come on man, I’m going to be in that cell for nine and a half hours, don’t tell me there’s no time.

Make it quick.

No cigarettes.

Hey buddy, can I bum a cigarette?

Confronted by an obvious criminal, handcuffs, oversized Immigration guard. (Read: surprised. Read: amused).

Sure man.

Can you light it for me?

No Problem.

Officer tries hard to remain stoic, but he seems to human after all. Smiles, nods to passersby. Passersby stare. And why not? Grubby bum, hands cuffed behind his back, trying to smoke without dropping the cigarette out of his mouth. (Read: Stories to tell when they get home).

Holding Cell. Right to a phone call. Call home.

Hey, it’s me… Yeah, they’re sending me home… I know it’s fucked hey?… No they reckon there’s nothing they could do… No not sure, I guess I’ll call you when I get into the airport… Na, I’ okay, tired though… yeah see you tomorrow… Love you too.

Lie on the floor. No sleep. Doze a little here and there. Refuse the vat-grown excuse for food they offer. Drink coffee. Lie on the floor. Waiting.

This time I get two Transferring Officers. And another joyride in handcuffs. At least they’re in front of me this time. Gotta love this shit.

Bypass all the security lines. Still have to take my shoes off for the x-ray though. Easy without laces. Bypass the boarding lines.

Hey that better than waiting in all those lines. I should call you guys next time I come though.

Yeah. We do children’s parties too.

More humanity. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m safely dealt with now.

They hand over my documents to the head of the flight crew.

Don’t give them back to him until you land in Sydney.

Guess I’m not safe yet after all. There’s always the possibility I’ll bail out mid pacific and swim back to LA. (Read: Excessive. Read Paranoid).

Hey, have a good one guys.

Yeah. Stay out of trouble.

Alright another thirteen hour flight.

Welcome aboard Sir. I hope they’ll let you back in the country. (Read: I hope not. Read: Undesirable).

Yeah. Me too.

 

Copyright © Gethin A. Lynes 2007.

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~ by Gethin A. Lynes on September 15th, 2007.

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