Great. We survived the landing in Newark, New Jersey. Next the small matter of a two hour flight to Ohio.
As the Boeing 777 slowly taxi’s to our gate I sigh in relief and let go of Kit’s hand. “It’s OK babe I reassure her, they will soon heal.” I am referring to my deep fingernail imprints in her palm caused by my vice like grip of terror. “Can’t understand what I was so worried about really.” Yes the landing was a tad bumpy but I console myself with the thought that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.
The engines wind down and everybody stands up expectantly. After about 15 minutes lots of them sit down again. It becomes clear that we aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. Eventually though there is movement and people slowly start to disembark. Welcome to the USA I think to myself and embrace Kit. My smile must give away my relief at being on Terra firma again. We kiss and exit the 777 happily.
Next… Immigration. What jollity. I join what seems to be a 3 mile long single file queue that snakes its way slowly to the immigration desks. Kit and I are separated now. She is a US citizen and joins a different queue. I of course am a member of Al Qaeda till proven otherwise and I assume the blank look of the typical queue dweller as we inch our way towards the desks. I strike lucky briefly as a new clerk comes on duty and I am directed to the front of a new queue. I wait behind the red line till I am beckoned forward. I greet the clerk in my best American. “Hi Buddy. Have a nice day.” I say hopefully. The clerk looks at me dubiously as if I have just greeted him in Afghani. “Passport please Sir.” I proffer my passport. “Form D156 (I think) please Sir.” I proffer my form D156. “Blue customs declaration form please Sir.” “Err what? I ask limply. “Blue customs declaration form Sir? He repeats. I look crestfallen. “What the f**k is one of them I think to myself and why didn’t they give me one on the plane when they dished out the other forms?”
The clerk points to a table where I can pick up the said form and fill it in and rejoin the BACK of the queue. I shuffle away from the clerk muttering under my breath. “I’m sorry sir? Asks the clerk. “Have a nice day.” I grin weakly.
I go to the table and find the form. At least I have a pen on me. Lucky as none are provided and I dutifully fill in the form. It could be asking me if I am importing Bin Laden’s into the US but I just tick all the NO boxes and rejoin the back of the queue again. Eventually I get to the front and I am summoned forward to the clerk again. I can see Kit waiting for me a mere 10 yards away. I turn to the clerk and proffer my Form D156, Passport AND bloody blue customs declaration form with a smile of victory. I am asked to place my fingers and thumbs on a scanner to have my fingerprints taken. Great. Now let me in I think hopefully. But no. This is not my day.
“I see you have a FULL visa Sir.” I nod proudly. “ I sure do.” (And your Embassy wallahs had me over for about 300 quid for it I think privately to my self). I smile happily at the clerks powers of observation. “Why Sir?” he asks suspiciously. My stomach sinks into my boots as I once more explain my misdemeanour’s of about ten years previously. No convictions I explain fruitlessly. The clerk smiles in victory and closing his booth I am led away to ‘upstairs’. Kit looks on helplessly as I just shrug and smile weakly.
I am handed over to a couple of new uniformed guys who take me ‘upstairs’ in a lift. I am instructed to take a seat and wait till my name is called. I sit helplessly and watch as a female customs officer leads a beagle out to sniff the bins for bombs or drugs I presume. They walk past me and it seems that even the dog looks at me suspiciously. As they pass I flip it the bird. It would be just my luck I think to be refused entry and put on the next plane back to blighty. I just hope I can get a drink on it this time because I am going to get so bloody pi…… My thoughts are interrupted when I hear my name called.
I stroll nonchalantly up to the desk. The uniformed guy behind it asks me my occupation? “Writer.” I tell him. He grins as if I am spinning him a line. His smile says “Prove it.” Briefly I think of showing him my pen but decide this may not be the best course of action. I reach into my bag and pull out a copy of my novel ‘Love Sex and Time Travel.’ This seems to fascinate him. He even asks if he can buy it on Amazon. I assure him that he can and sincerely hope he will. He calls his buddy over and they both snicker over my books title. As long as they are happy then so am I and I chortle along with them and after a few brief pleasantries it is over. My passport is duly stamped allowing me into the country till July. As I turn to walk away one of them says. “Hey Buddy. I see you are going to Ohio. Nothing much happens there you know.” I smile and think to myself, “That’s cos I haven’t arrived there yet.”
©2010 Stan Rogers