Thursday, August 02, 2007

1st august
The thing I always dread about going to the States is their immigration proceudres.
They can be so offensive. They seem to choose people on the basis of who can be most effectively offensive and rude.
So I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I saw these signs that said they were undertaking to be courteous and efficient.
And they were courteous. But still scary.
I'd felt a little paranoid about entering the US on a woman's passport. So, just in case, I'd bought my old passport, and the doctor's letter saying I was a transsexual who'd chosen to live permanently as a woman, and the legal declaration of my change of name...
And it was probably this paranoia that caused me the problems. Because my being transgendered was never mentioned.
Because the guy asked me if I'd been to the States before. And I said "Not on this passport" and he pricked up his ears and said: "And have you got your old one" and I said I had, and he took it, and then he said "Step this way please" and before I knew what was happening I was being led away to an unknown destination.
Or at least to a lift, where a cheery man said "The good news is, we're not going to shoot you" and led us to a large room with benches on it, where were sitting the rest of the lost.
Some while away were desks with bored looked uniformed officials sitting behind them, looking through the clear plastic folders all our papers had been put into.
We had to wait until our name was called, generally very quickly and inaudibly, by one of said officials.
It was strange, sitting there, not knowing why I was sitting there, or what the problem was, or what the outcome might be, only knowing I could do absolutely nothing about it.
I tried to breathe. I tried to repeat a Buddhist mantra.
I told myself it was important to appear calm.
And then that appearing too calm might look like a sign of guilt.
But then so would looking too agitated.
I had spotted which desk my papers had gone to, and which official might be attending to them, and tried to will them to get on with it.
Hours passed. There were sinister looking officials in mauve disposable gloves. Searchinmg some people's luggage. Some had to fetch their luggage to be searched. Most were released: but some were led away.
Finally my name was called. A very bored official I hadn't seen before: asking meaningless questions about how much currency I had brought into the country.
Anmd then I was free to go.
It only took about forty minutes.
No: not forty hours.
And they were very polite.

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