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Sunday, May 06, 2012

"It's late and I wanna go home ..."

With great trepidation, to say the least, I followed the young woman to her immediate supervisor over at the gate desk. She took one look at my passport and declared that she could not possibly authorize me to board the plane. She would have to have her supervisor make the final decision.

My plane was due to take off at 20:40. It was 19:50. I had bought a  'choice' seat which meant that I was among the first to board. The woman called the final authority, who was conveniently on the other side of the airport. She was on her way. In the meantime ...

I was reduced to a  very nervous, almost, but not quite snivelling little old lady. "I've been using this passport for the past two and a half years", I whined -- hating myself as I moaned and feeling intensely panicky. The thought was going through my mind that if they would not let me on I would have to get a new passport and God only knew how long that would take ... Ten minutes of turmoil later I asked where this supervisor was -- "She's coming, it takes a while to get her from the other side of the airport" didn't help my frustration and fear. The time wore on and my breath became more and more bated.

A voice in the back of my head told me to stop acting like such a ninny. My behaviour was not helped though, when I was asked, "Have you checked luggage?"

"Yes, but but but"... Nothing would stop her. She ordered my bag to be taken off the plane. At that point I almost broke down. "You don't have to do that, this is ridiculous." She then told me that if I got to England and immigration wouldn't let me through, the airline would have to fly me back "on their dime'! I felt as if my goose was cooked ... However, I assured her, still whiny, that they were not going to do that. I was after all a resident, I was married to a British subject... She wasn't impressed.

Oh, she was sorry, but the bag had to come off and be put aside in case I was allowed to fly. More minutes passed by. A man appeared who was in charge of luggage and got the number attached to the bag and went off to carry out the deed.

In the meantime, minutes had passed, the plane had boarded and still the Final Authority had not arrived. "Where is she", I groaned -- amidst moans of  "What am I going to do, (sniff, sniff) what am I going to do?" All this steadfastly ignored by the woman at the desk. The man came back, the luggage was off the plane. Time was marching on. Twenty minutes, thirty minutes past. I complained that her supervisor was intentionally taking her time to make me miss the plane! She assured me this was not the case. My heart was pounding. At this point she called again the Final Authority who again claimed she was almost there.

The "stop acting like a ninny voice" was getting louder in my head as it became more and more evident that the plane would take off without me. I took some deep breaths. I asked the girl would she be able to get me on a plane back to Hartford that night. She said she could. After all I had lots of family and friends in the States to turn to -- I was not alone in a foreign country. "Right" I decided, "I'll call Bill (my brother) on his cell phone and he can meet me in Hartford and then I'll be able to call The Man (this is all his fault) ;-) and then we'll figure out the next step. It helped to have a plan.

The baggage guy appeared wondering what was what. He was told we were waiting for the 'Final Authority' so he should stand by in case I was allowed on board. Less than five minutes before the plane was due to leave the gate. Finally way down at the end of the hall, the woman at the desk saw her coming. "I'm going to meet her half way!" She exclaimed -- and off she went. Then I could see her -- the two of them. No 'effing' wonder it took her forever to get there with those spiky heels on her feet! The Final Authority looked at tthe passport. Said a few words and handed it back to the girl.

"You can fly!" She exclaimed. She got back to me, got her walkie talkie out and told the man to put my luggage back on the plane, rushed over to the gate and handed me my passport with a new boarding card. I rushed onto the plane to be greeted by the Attendants with "How are you?"

"Pretty shaky" I said. As I made my way to my seat I heard the pilot apologising for the delay and explaining it was due to security issues! I was shaking with relief as well as embarrassment. The steward was very kind and helped put my hand luggage in the overhead compartment. There was plenty of room. In fact, I was blessed that I had the two seats to myself. As soon as the plane was in the air and dinner was being served, I gave in and spent $7.50 on a small bottle of Chardonnay -- it helped (a bit).

But -- what the hell was going to happen when I went through immigration in the UK? The plane landed. The Man informed me by cell phone that he was almost at the airport. I didn't bother to explain that I didn't know if I'd be allowed through or not. After all if I wasn't he'd find out soon enough. So I got off the plane and the walk to immigration control seemed longer than ever -- I was near the front of the line -- only three people ahead of me. My turn came...

I handed my passport to the immigration officer. He looked at the passport, opened it up -- went to scan it. In a very weak voice I said, "It won't scan". He punched in some numbers, stamped the passport and handed it back to me -- without a word...

The nightmare was over. I was Home -- with a capital H!

Can you guess my new project?

41 comments:

  1. Meanwhile the guy with a turban, one eyebrow and a tee-shirt that said "F U Infidel" got on the plane without a problem!

    No way you should have gone through that! Just one beurocratic jerkweed!

    Cranky Old Man

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    1. I think you may have the answer, Joeh! Next time I'm wearing a turban and shaving off my eyebrows. Should work a treat!

      One thing I forgot to mention in my post was that May 2 was the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden ...

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  2. Well in addition to the adrenalin boost you got one great story out of it.

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    1. Tnanks, Stephen, you don't do so badly yourself!

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  3. I am surprised you required so little wine.... I would have thought a very large bottle, or several of those little ones would have been in order. Glad it had a sensible outcome, and you should feel incredibly proud that you didn't collapse in a weeping heap..... the "ninny voice" was entirely appropriate, and very calm and understated in the circumstances. Welcome home. J

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    1. Actually, the flight attendant asked me if I wanted two!

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  4. Oh God! I so sympathize with your plight. Personally, I don't handle things too well when I have no control over what I can do or can't do and think you handled this so very well. I've only had one incident with getting on board and the attendant brought me a drink before we even took off. Ha. I guess I looked like I was going to have a melt down or in the midst of one. I'm glad you made it there alright and with dignity in tact.

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    1. You've made me laugh! I kept thinking that I had to stay as calm as I could. I was quite shocked at how quickly I felt as if I was going to fall apart.

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  5. Welcome home, Kathie! I think you were very brave. Now get that that passport and UK citizinship sorted out as soon as possible and you'll never have to worry about such things again ... I hope ;). Martine

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    1. The passport is being worked on -- I started the day I got back. It's going to be a pain -- but I'm getting those 'ducks in a row'... And thanks for the welcome home!

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  6. Glad you made it back home - it must have been awful, not knowing. I would have been a complete wreck. As if travelling is not stressful enough to start with.

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    1. Thanks, Jean. Travelling is definitely stressful at the best of times. You have no idea how longingly I look at other peoples nice dirty un-washed passports ... ;-)

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  7. Congratulations on surviving the stress, Broad! I would have been a small puddle of hopeless panic on the inside and probably on the outside. I reckon you should have had the drinks on the house after being put through all that. When will the new passport arrive or are you waiting until you get your nice new British one?

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    1. Here's the thing, Perpetua -- I must get a new passport before I go through applying for British citizenship. I have started the ball rolling and ordered an official copy of my birth certificate. Then I can make an appointment with the British embassy in London because I have to go there in person if I have a damaged passport. But oh how I longed to be able to whip out a beautiful red British passport...

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  8. Oh you poor thing, how I sympathize...and only a small bottle of chardonay? I would have been completely plastered by the time the plane landed I'm sure. Hope your dual citizenship won't cause those kinds of problems. I know with me, I just hand over both my Aussie and my US passport and ask the agent to figure it out (at both ends), but veddy, veddy nicely of course. Works like a charm. Smiles A.

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    1. I didn't want to get plastered until after I got through immigration! I like the way you operate!

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  9. Well, at least you made it home. With nary a word from British security. I swear, Americans always over-react those days.

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    1. British immigration have always been charming and polite. Once when I went through the customs officer asked why I didn't become a British citizen. I told him I didn't want to lose my American citizenship and he replied: "We wouldn't tell!" (This was before I discovered I could have dual nationality.)

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  10. All down to one person afraid to take responsibility re your passport.
    Glad you made it!

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    1. Thanks Fly ... But the truth is that I should have replaced it long ago :-(

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  11. What an ordeal! I'm so glad it had a good outcome for you -- but the mix of an insecure airline employee and our national paranoia sure added up to a big headache for you! I'll bet England looked extra good to you after all that!

    My brother, who has homes both in L.A. and in Bangkok, says that U.S. customs and security is incredibly harsh with people who are least likely to be terrorists. When his wife was trying to get into the U.S. about a year after their marriage, it took eight months of paperwork -- including signed affidavits that she had never been a sex worker. He says that it appears that any Thai woman under the age of, say, 80 has to prove she's not a sex worker.

    Looking forward to hearing about your next project!

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    1. The problem for your sister-in-law is another example of prejudice not only racial, but also against women. For a time The Man had a green card. He was hassled so much whenever he left the country and was trying to come back in, that we decided to hand it back in to the authorities. Every time he tried to re-enter he got a "I'm inclined to refuse you entry" from them.

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  12. I can't imagine your anxiety. I know that they were doing you a favor in a way. They were just making sure you could land in England with no problems, but what a terrible worry for you. I guess all is well that ends well.

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    1. Yes, I've thought of that often the past few days: All's well that ends well!

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  13. What a nightmare! You coped extremely well in the circumstances.

    I'm surprised one small bottle of wine was enough to calm your nerves and you didn't resort to something stronger! Although you did need to keep your wits about you for UK immigration where you must have been very lucky with the queues! Glad to have you home safely.

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    1. The benefit of Manchester Airport over Heathrow -- no queues out of the ordinary!

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  14. Glad you are back home. think I'd have taken the offer of a second bottle!
    So is a new passport from the US Embassy in London on the 'to do' list?. [to be fair they issued my last one and it was very straight forwrd :-) Although the security to get can feel intimidating]

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    1. You've got my 'To Do' list right on the button! The American Embassy is not my favourite place to go! But needs must...

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  15. What an ordeal! I find few things quite as frustrating as being completely at the mercy of someone else, which is so often the case when flying. And customs, always more vulnerable! Happy you are home!

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    1. "vulnerable" is a perfect description of how I felt...

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  16. Dear Broad, . . . just now I read both this posting and the previous one. Your story was so well written that I, too, was hanging on to its forward motion with bated breath. What an ordeal. How stressful for you. I so hope you haven't come down with the flu or a cold or simply the need to spend several days in bed. I always feel so helpless--and hopeless--in this kind of situation. (And also when any appliance or the computer breaks down in some way.) When we must rely on someone else, we fear--or at least I do--that that person won't recognize my need or the gravity of the situation.

    But oh, I was so relieved when you got to England and all went well. Happy return to the place where you want to become a citizen! And yes, you'll get that passport, but I hope that soon you'll need a new one as a British citizen!

    Peace.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments about my story-telling. I'm fine -- no cold nor flu just the usual jet lag! I know exactly what you mean about the computer going down -- I feel so at a loss. In fact I'm considering a small notebook or tablet as a standby!

      I've started passport proceedings, hope to hear something about that sometime this week.

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  17. Welcome home, Broad! What a ghastly experience for you - I'm surprised you didn't collapse with a heart attack or something (& that would have served them right - grounds for a massive compensation claim!!) I think I'd have been so incandescent with rage that I'd have started the third world war, against the US - and blown everything completely! I hnave to say that my only experience of US security at airports, in 2000 when we visited friends in Fort Myers, was reasonable - but that was before 9/11, of course. We haven't (& probably won't now due to age & infirmity) tried to cross the pond again, although we absolutely loved Florida, and also I have a cousin in Virginia and other relations in Georgia. So glad you made it back, and all good wishes for a) getting a new passport, and b) your citizenship application. Hope to meet you sometime - where in the Marches do you visit (we live just inside the Welsh border between Newtown and Craven Arms)?

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    1. Thanks for the welcome back, Helva! The one thing I did not want to do was lose my temper as I knew that could make matters a whole lot worse.

      Our friends live in Longtown in Hereford -- do you know it?

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    2. Slightly - it's a bit further South from us, but we go down that way when visiting friends near Cwmbran (going via Hereford and Monmouth), and if going to Southern England we go via Ledbury. And we shop in Hereford occasionally if we wantr a day out and can't face the hills in Shrewsbury (I walk with crutches!)
      It's a good job you don't have short fuse - although I have to say that mine only operates when I can't be heard by the intended recipient these days! I used to be very volcanic when young!!

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  18. With all the nonsense going on at our airports here it's almost like the terrorist won't have to do a thing, they've already caused our travelers a lot of pain and suffering. I am so sorry you had to go through all that and I hope they will find a way to make us as secure as possible, without all the unnecessary trauma.

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  19. The officials in your current country are much more civilized than those here. I traveled extensively in my youth, and I learned early on that the rudest and most inept customs officials in the entire world are employed by The United States government. I have found no reason since then to modify that opinion.

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    1. I agree with you. I think I read somewhere a year or two ago that immigration officials were going through some retraining -- it seems American tourism has actually been hurting due to foreigners just not wanting the hassle. And who can blame them...

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  20. Oh wow, I am a red head and I would have lost my temper..... I know that it causes more problems but I just lose it and that is it. I would have been kicked off the flight for sure. I am really glad to read that you are back home.

    Thanks so much for you kind thoughts and condolences, much appreciated. Diane

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    1. There were a couple of things in the back of my mind. One was that it was the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death and the other was that I wanted to get home that night on that plane! If I'd been denied it could have been weeks before I could have gotten a new passport!

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