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"Does he have any aliases?"

For those of you in the know, I was in England for a while doing some contract work for a company over there. I came home so they could try to get me a work permit and hire me on full time, but the british home Office saw things a little differently and said no.

After being told no, We decided I needed to return to England and meet for a while and map out what I'd be doing, as well as drink many a pint and stomp around for a few weeks.

I got to England Monday morning, went to the customs line.

They swipe my passport. I tell them I'm in town to do a little travel and talk with the company I'm contracting with the states with.

"Please sit over there on that bench."

Long story short, they detain me and refuse me entry to the UK. Detain me overnight in a minimum security prison, for lack of a better term, and fly me out the next morning.

The long story long is never get detained at an airport. It's mainly an exercise in seeing how bored they can make you while the bureaucracy machine shakes the rust off its gears and gets the process of kicking you out moving slowly along. Like a big paper glacier.

After sitting on the bench for about 45 minutes, a guy comes and we get my luggage, which gets thoroughly searched and they take pretty much every scrap of paper they find. They go though my wallet and look at everything in there, too, taking whatever items of interest they find.

I found it highly amusing that they guy didn't take a note I had in there from an old girlfriend telling me I was "a Great Lay."

I go back to the bench and sleep on it for about 45 minutes. They call the company I'm working with, who tells them "Yes, he's contracting with us, and here for meetings. Yes, he's also a friend of ours and were going to tear shit up at night."

I get interviewed some more. At this point I'm assuming it didn't matter, because I explained the same shit, this time in more detail.

Then I go to a holding room and my bags and phone go into a storage room. The holding room is featureless except for a few McDonald's like tables and benches. Very uncomfortable to sleep on.

I get interviewed AGAIN by the same frigging guy, who asked the same questions, but this time he's got 20 sheets of paper photocopied with lines on it in two columns.

He proceeds to write the entire thing down LONGHAND. After the first 5 minutes I'm just reading what questions he's writing down and answering them before he can say anything, to speed up the obvious process of them deporting me.

At the end of the interview I asked them to please just stop jerking me around and do what they're going to do, because my answers aren't changing. They're not changing because I'm not making any of it up so I don't need to remember what lies I told after sitting in a freezing cold holding room for two hours.

More about the freezing cold holding room - the security guys that are watching it are of course some contracted company. They were fairly decent folks. gave us coffee and terrible sandwiches and even let me change out of my Vegas shorts into a pair of long pants - because, like I said, it was friggin freezing in there.

I don't think that was on purpose, but the holding room was just a partitioned area of the main wait-in-line-for-your-stamp area, with the same air conditioning. Being that I was one of two people in there, we didn't make the same body heat to warm the space like the main area.

We have a THIRD person come to talk to me, but only to tall me that i'm going to be flying home the next morning (they got the change the change fee waived, and I still got my miles) and I'll be taken to a place where I can sleep and get a shower.

This is a Detention center.

Basically a super minimum security prison.

After ANOTHER two hours, they take me and my bags to this min ivan that had been converted to have a cage structure in the back so you couldn't touch anything else in the van.

By this time, i'm so fed up with the whole thing that when I got into the van I had to fight the urge to drop the line from Goodfellas

Now take me to jail.

The people there were actually very nice, all told. They still took all my stuff and locked it away for the night in a holding room, only letting me take out a change of clothes.

"Well, what about my toothbrush and stuff?"

"No, we have a set of all of that for you." They gave me a bag with a clean towel, washcloth, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and even a little bottle of deodorant.

"Hey, free toothbrush," I thought to myself.

They wouldn't let me have my phone, either. I didn't know how or when I'd be able to call anyone - i did notice a lot of BT pay phones in there, though - so I asked them "Look, I need to let my friends in the states know I'm coming back a month early and that someone is going to need to pick me up at the airport. Let me text them, you guys can sit right here and watch me do it."

They were amenable to that. Like I said, other than the tools in immigration proper, these were all actually really nice people. I understood their job was their job, not everyone that came through there was "a nice guy" and they even answered the million inane questions I had about the facility.

While I was in the detention center, people there - even the staff - would have the following conversation with me:

"So, where you from?"

"Las Vegas - in the States."

"The States? What the hell are you doing in here?"

"Fuck I know."

One jovial guard asked me where my deck of cards were.

Turns out that after you get inprocessed there, one of the things they do is feed you and give you a physical.

I showed up just before the dining hall closed up for dinner (6.45 pm. I got to gatwick at 10.15 am. You can do the math.) so they wanted to get me in there to eat. However, since they could also tell that if I didn't get a cigarette in me as soon as is humanly possible I was going to smoke my own fingers, they just said, "Theres the doctor. Go see him after you eat and get a cigarette, then one of us will show you around."

I immediately smoked about fifteen cigarettes, ate some tasty beef stew, then smoked five more.

They take your lighters and matches away, 'cause it IS a prison, so there are these goofy electric lighters on the wall. You feel real stupid with your face against it trying to light your smoke. I bet if that was the only legal way to get a light, most people would just stop, because it's silly.

The doctor was basically there to make sure you're not going to die on them while in the pokey, and not going to spread some infectious disease to everyone.

I made him list me as "Heavy Smoker" in my profile.

Hey, free toothbrush; maybe free smokes!

Apparently, most of the folks I was in there with had been picked up by British Immigration for one reason or another after staying past their visas. If they wanna appeal, they can stay in the facility and meet with a lawyer and wait until their appeal is decided on. There are apparently a bunch of services for asylum seekers. Unfortunately, Jesusland isn't considered bad enough to be granted asylum from - yet.

Lots of africans - my roommate was a Namibian named Jones who was a bookkeeper, but after school noone would hire him so he worked three jobs. he was on appeal, and had been there for almost a month.

Most of the other people were eastern europeans. I talked with a big group of Romanians and Ukrainians that all seemed to know each other. Apparently they had been in the UK for some time and all lived in the same neighborhood. A few days previously, Immigration showed up at their houses and said "Get a change of clothes and come with me. You're going home."

Take that as you will.

Lots of them had questions about what this process was like in the States, and I couldn't tell them.

The tour was given by a nice guy who showed me where my room was (think dorm) and my lockable locker, and where things like the library and TV rooms were.

I was chatting and asked him how long some people have been there - he said one guy had been in since he started working there. I can only assume this was at least six or eight months.

It was quite the shot of perspective.

After I had been toured around, i was given a £3 calling card and a beeper. The card was so I could contact people and tell them where I was. Basically, its enough time to give them the number of where you're staying and tell them you're not dead.

The beeper tells you if the staff wants you anywhere, or if you have a phone call. Then you go to one of a bazillion house phones and they connect you. My friend that I'm staying in Vegas with called back, gave my name to the switchboard operator, and the woman asked her, "Does he have any aliases?"


The flight home was okay. Getting to it was sort of a mess. Those of us that were going that day were awakened at 4am and given time to get ready. They got us some coffee and then we loafed around in the smoking lounge for an hour.

Like an idiot, I only stuffed ONE pack of smokes into my jacket the day before, when they put all my shit into storage, so I ran out.

Lesson learned: When you're going to be detained, stuff as many packs of smokes into your pockets as is humanly possible. Luckily, I didn't have to use any of them as currency.
Then they carted the 5 of us over in this van thats all caged in so you cant open the doors or windows. That sucked. They use the same van to take you to your flight, driving around on the tarmac.

You don't even go through the gate, but you get taken to the SIDE of the jetway and are taken up the side stairs the employees use. Sorta cool, but mostly really shitty.

Before we got to my plane, we went to another guy's deportation flight.

Problem - they forgot to give him his cellphone (My Mobile! My Mobile! My Mobile! he kept yelling and pointing around wildly), and he was a dumbass and didnt notice this until he was supposed to board. Being young and stupid, he refused to get on the plane and refused to give them an address to courrier his phone to the next day. He was told he could get on the plane now or get on the pllane tomorrow with his phone the next day - in handcuffs.

He got back into the van. But this was after I wasting 15 minutes and amlost missing MY flight.

The second they decide to detain you, by the way, they take your passport. You don't get it back until you get OFF the plane, and the Virgin people in Las Vegas didn't know what to do with me (having never seen a depored American before), so I actually didn't get mine back until the US Customs guy had stamped it.

He was completely perplexed from second one as to why I was in this situation in the first place, which was highly amusing, and I got a nice "Welcome Home" from him.

I know this is bloggy, but it's easier than telling the same fucking story a million times. I'm sure I'll return to the same bile-filled ranting as soon as I get settled in here.


Lucky Out.

9 Sep 05

PS - after hearing this tale, a friend of mine recently named her pubquiz team Free SlappyJack!

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