Here I thought; no grounds for arrest, no dodgy passport, no history of sexual-offences, no reason AT ALL to be sent back to Africa with my head hung in shameful silence… Time to get my London Street Party on!!
Ha! That’s where they get their kicks you see.
Fiona, I’m sure, was sitting in Mission Control HQ (you know…those rooms with all the black and white TV screens displaying the millions of cameras set up in Heathrow, that document every nose-pick, every bum-grab and every gum-sticking-under-table…only to be aired later in the canteen for all to enjoy) with her feet on the desk. Waiting, patiently, for me to breathe a sigh of relief. To see the colour return to my cheeks, and a smile play like a little sugarplum fairy, at the corner of my lips.
Then, just as I am about to say my “Thank You’s” to Mr Turban (one cannot say that we South Africans are not polite) Fiona SLAMS down her fist on the wooden desk!!!! BOOM!!
Fiona: “Hahaha! The fool! Jokes on you African Scum! The best is yet to come!!” *even though she laughs, she remains straight-faced. This is her trademark, and even the most hardened Immigrations Officials envy her for it*
I am led to a room where two men sit at a metal desk. Pushing paper. Looking angry (one can only assume that they, like Fiona, are unable to read what is in front of them, this causing the unexplained anger.)
Angry #1:”I’m going to have to ask you to hand over all your personal belongings.”
Me: “Um, I only have this with me.” *Slowly, filled with shame and reluctance, I slide my hands under my shirt.*
*Angry 1&2 must have had mixed emotions here.*
*Emotion #1: Fear. I could have been hiding any number of dangerous weapons under there. Bearing in mind, they would have had to be small enough to carry on my skin, AND made it through airport security in South Africa, and yet pack enough punch for me to wipe out all of their equally angry co-workers in order to execute my escape.
Emotion #2 Excitement. Let’s be honest… I’m just a girl, standing in front of (two) a boy (men) asking him to love her (sticking her hands under her shirt).
Emotion #3 Nothing. I mean, they ARE Immigrations Officials. They can’t be expected to experience REAL human emotions such as empathy, apathy, and sympathy.*
*I remove unsightly money belt, now soaked in sweat and, slightly happy about this, hand it over.*
Angry #2: “You are going to have to remove your belt. That buckle is a dangerous weapon.”
I am wearing a belt buckle that is a rather large skull. I might be able to murder someone with it… granted I was a 120kg trained cage-fighter with the reflexes of a mongoose!!
Me: “My pants will fall down…” *Sad, girl-eyes, brimming with customary manipulatory (is this a word? hope not. would like to take credit for it) tears.
Angry #1 or 2 (I loose track due to the fact that they are equally non-descript, pasty English men): “You’ll have to risk it.”
Thanks very much, Angry…for nothing.
Now, with no money, passport or uber-deadly-fighting-skull-buckle-secret-weapon, I am lead into another room.
Here I find two men who I assume are my fellow-terrorists.
I decide to be friendly and find out about them. If one of them decides to kill/eat/explode me, maybe the other will take pity on me, and my friendly South African ways and use his own personal brand of Terror to save me.
The first man can be described as: Well, just Google “Serial Killer Images”. He is bald on top, but has straggly, oily mullet down to his shoulders. His skin is badly scarred from years of acne (perhaps he had to burn his face with acid in order to become part of Global Terrorists United…one never can tell with these types). He is wearing a sweatshirt that does not look like it is his size, or even his property… and sweatpants. His eyes are blue, except for the part that should be white. This is red.
Me: “Why are you in this room?”
Killer: “They are deporting me. Sending me back to America.” *killer has the exact kind of American accent you would imagine. Think, ‘My Name is Earl’, but slower. And a deeper voice, like he just woke up and smokes 30 a day*
Me: “Why are they deporting you?”
Killer: “I was coming to live with my girlfriend, but they say she says I’m not.”
Me:*feeling quite sad for Killer now. He’s not likely to find another girlfriend any time soon, and I feel his dedication and willingness to move countries for Girlfriend shows some good character* “Why won’t they let you in?”
Killer: “I don’t have any money in my bank account. I met my girlfriend on the internet, but now I’ll have to go back to America.”
*Sympathy for Killer is now replaced with Understanding. I totally get that this man should not be allowed to further stalk poor Girlfriend. I also start to experience a deep and urgent desire to NEVER attempt internet dating chatrooms.*
I decide to cut my conversational losses and turn my attention to my other cellmate. He seems young, and he is of the tanned variety. Turns out he is Indian.
Cannot repeat our dialogue, as I myself had trouble decoding and processing his broken and somewhat confusing use of what I assume was the English language. But here is a brief summary of our conversation, and what I managed to piece together.
He came to England to study at a University. He had all his papers in order. But upon closer inspection (not sure who exactly did this inspection, as it has become apparent that no-one who works at this airport is able to read??) it was discovered that the Uni he was coming to, did not exist at all. (“In his mind” does not count.) And I know what you’re thinking…but no, the poor Indian boy was not lured to the UK by some evil Indian-student-luring-cult. (Maybe you weren’t thinking that at all, but I know it was my first train of thought.) He actually did it all himself. And not once, did it ever occur to him, that making up an entire Uni, that no-one would ever have heard of, or even be able to Google…was the worst idea that anyone had ever had.
*Why am I here???!!!! Am I just as mad as these two?? By now, I cannot take it anymore. I have been brave for as long as I possibly can. I have given it my best shot. It’s time I face the inevitable…it’s time…to phone my Mom.*
After very brief convo with Mom, I am renewed with a fresh batch of leaky eyes. Borderline hysteria now. Loud sobs. Uncontrollable runny nose. Not a pretty sight. Should perhaps not have called Mom, but find that I always need to hear her voice in times of crises. (Also, excitement, anger, rage, financial turmoil, failing/failed romance, confusion of any kind, hunger and sheer boredom)
Not Notting Hill Guy now makes an appearance. He takes met to yet ANOTHER room. Start to worry about location now. In case of Terrorist Cult trying to include me in any activities, my escape route might be a problem. The mental map I would need to use in order to re-trace my steps and escape this place, (learned this little skill from the amazing Bear Grylls. Also, it is safe to drink your own urine-hoping this will not be necessary-and if stranded in desert, a camel is a safe place to sleep in) is too confusing as I have now been sent from room to room, deeper and deeper into this airport, and am not entirely sure I’m still INSIDE Heathrow at all. Perhaps this is a technique they use to ensure Terrorist Confusion.
Inside this Confusion Chamber I expect to be submitted to Drunken Twister (well, one can hope). But no, my picture gets taken (most likely for publication on interweb and Dodgy Foreigners To Look Out For databases across all International Airports across the globe) and my fingerprints get digitally scanned. Now I get taken to ANOTHER room.
In this room Not Notting Hill Guy sits me down at a small table. He sits down across from me. Does not offer me a “cuppa” as I was hoping.
NNHG: ”Do you see this bar next to you?”
*Excitement nearly kills me! But no, sadly not a place to order a Whiskey. Just a strip across wall that says “DO NOT TOUCH”*
Me: (Is this a trick question?) “Yes.”
NNHG: “If you touch it, an alarm will go off, and you will be arrested.”
I wish I could tell you what the point of this whole untouchable bar was. But I do not know?? I can’t even guess? Why would they place a bar that may not be touched, unless you want to be arrested of course, 6mm from my ELBOW???
*I decide not to say anything. Trying the hardcore approach now, as I have run out of tears.*
NNHG: “I have all your documents here. Now I am going to go through them, and ask you a number of questions. Then, it’s up to me to decide if you will be allowed into the country, or if we are going to send you home. Ok?”
Me: (No!! That is NOT ok AT ALL!! But, because you remind me so much of that funny guy without the pants, and because I can see that you are actually, surprisingly, a nice person under all that Immigrations Officer anger, I will go along with your silly questions.) “Ok”
NNHG: “It says here that you are a television presenter in South Africa.”
Me: (This is not a question?) *silence*
NNHG: “I would think that this is quite a sought-after career? Why would you leave it to come to London?”
Me: (Exactly!! Thank you for not being RETARDED!) “I’m not leaving it. I get paid for the shifts I work, so I am just taking 3 months unpaid leave.”
NNHG: “This Jethro Kruger, how do you know him?”
Me: (Oh, Hugh Grant’s Friend! Did Fiona put you up to this? I know you are unable to read, but I wish you two could just discuss facts with one another. Would you like me to read to you the letter that is right in front of you that clearly says: ‘Natalie Roos is the daughter of my cousin.”) “He is my Dad’s cousin.”
*NNHG flips through my papers, pretending to be able to read what they say. I am tempted to look if they are actually even the right way up.*
*Boredom tempts me to touch the bar. Common Sense kicks boredom in the face.*
After what seems like an eternity…NNHG looks up and says:
NNHG: “Right, I can’t see a reason why you should not be allowed to enter The UK. You can collect your belongings and I’ll meet you outside.”
Me: *too scared to say a single word in case it prompts him to change his mind/call Fiona for her opinion/touch the bar*
In a blur, caused by elation, disbelief and exhaustion due to the fact that my journey has now been almost 24 hours long, I somehow find my way back to the room with Angry #1 & #2. They reluctantly hand over my Secret-weapon-killing-belt (quite surprised that they would risk allowing me to enter the country with a weapon so obviously capable of mass-destruction.)
Decide not to question them, and rather make a run for it. They bid me farewell with little fanfare and even less smiles. I, in return, blow them kisses.
Now, the end is near. I can see the exit. I’m sure I can smell the London streets (can’t be sure, might be me…haven’t showered in over 24 hours). I wrap my hands firmly around my luggage trolley, and just as I’m about to step out…a light bulb goes on!! My passport and ticket!!!! Fiona never gave them back to me after she called me Lying African Scumbag.
I turn around, about to start a frantic search for Fiona and my Golden Ticket. But she has beaten me to the chase. She stands a few metres behind me, with her best impression of a smirk across her immaculate Scary Face. In her extended hand, is the green book that caused all this trauma in the first place, along with my return ticket. I reach out, as Fiona says: “Well, that was the final test. If you were planning on disappearing into the country, you wouldn’t have needed this, now would you?”
I think Fiona might have some trust issues. I think I might have some brand new issues all of my own. But I don’t have time to think about this now…
I’m in London baby!!