I was denied access to entering the UK. Well, that’s not entirely true: It was for 20 minutes, but 20 minutes that felt like 5 hours. Here’s what happened: I got off the plane and walked up to the man who reads my ‘landing card’ and checks out my passport. He was a short Pakistani man, and grabbed my passport from me. He had an awesome mustache. Here’s how the conversation went:
How long are you staying in London
I’m not sure how long. I know my next stop is Edinburgh, where I’ll be meeting a couple friends.
Do you have their addresses? Are you meeting anyone in the airport? Do you have over 100 [British] pounds on you?
Nope no and no.
He continues to ask me very detailed questions about the trip, and I reply straightforwardly. I keep telling him items on my itinerary, and he keeps telling me that their aren’t concrete plans that he can stamp or use to prove that I won’t become a drain on the British monetary fund.
Ok, then do you have a return ticket?
Yes. [I show him the ticket that shows me leaving London on May 1st, 7 months later]
Ok. I’m going to deny you entry. [He starts writing on my landing card the terms of the deportment]. Because you are staying longer than four months in the country, you aren’t studying, aren’t working, and you have no proof of funds in your accounts, you cannot enter the country. He says that as far as he knows, I am staying in London for 7 months. I’m not allowed to do that. I must be deported.
At this point, I’m trying to explain away myself PROMISING HIM that I will get a ticket to Copenhagen, Denmark the instant I get into my hostel (which I don’t have a reservation form for) but he only writes down these intimate promises on the back of my landing card, which has become a massive laundry list of my infractions.
One thing that helps is when I tell him I have a Eurail pass that doesn’t work in England (but works in Ireland, Germany, Italy, France… and so on). I tell him it lasts for two months once I activate it, and I can travel for 10 days within that 2 month period. He says no can do, because it is still no guarantee that I will use that Eurail pass.
So this great guy fills the back of a landing card with all my 7 month supposed plan, and then says ‘Excuse me sir’–the nicest thing I’ve heard all day, and walks up to an observation booth where he gets this landing card cleared (and begins the process of shipping me back to New York City). He brought with him my passport, my plane ticket, my return ticket itinerary printout, and my Eurail pass.
I can see him through the 20% tinted observation booth windows, and he’s talking to a young woman who’s clearly in charge. He doesn’t talk to her for longer than 2 minutes, then walks back to my booth, looks around for something on the desk, then goes to another desk and brings back a stamp. It appears I do not have to crap all over the floor, because he stamps my passport, and says this: “Because your Eurail pass expires in two months we will allow you in the country.” I say thanks, I’ll read up on my travel requirements in the future, and so on… and I skitter off. The funny thing is, my Eurail pass doesn’t expire in two months. It only lasts for two months once I activate it, and I can activate it as late as February 26th! Ha hah! By Trafalgar, that’s as long as it takes for me to take the money out of every bloody fountain here and send the British economy to ruins! I was so overwhelmed with luck, I tripped on a old woman’s rolly thing and had a nice tumble.
I got another stress barf feeling when I was riding on the underground away from Heathrow. I was on the picadilly line, and after two stops there was an announcement: “Due to a security issue, we must ask you to disembark from this train at the next stop.” I was sure that the kind Pakistani man who let me enter the country discovered his error, and had alerted the nation. Turns out it wasn’t for me, but you can only imagine the looks thrown towards the tall, sweaty, and now short-haired bloke with the massive backpack under his watchful eye.
Dear British High Commission, I won’t be in your country too long, though your employee may have made a mistake. Before you know it, I’ll be riding donkeys in Turkey. I hope I haven’t been an inconvenience.
Besides that business, London is an amazing colorful, fast-moving (but polite) brickey city. The cars jump out from the wrong ways down the cobbley streets, but the water tastes good, things only cost 3 times much as they do in the U.S., and I’m having a great time on my own.