…and it’s not even over.
I’m sleep deprived in a bus station, this will be a bit long, I think it’s worth telling though.
Okay…I left home about 30 hours ago, got a ride to the bus station, a bus to the airport, a plane to Dublin, and then somehow got refused entry into the UK from Ireland. Since then it’s like the whole thing has been playing backwards in slow motion…back on the plane, back on the bus, back home…
It’s been pretty brutal.
“So…” I looked over at the friendly Irishman guiding me back to my unexpected return flight. “Any idea why they aren’t letting me into the UK?”. He shakes his head, “Because the’ye fuckers”. The flight attendant was quite surprised too, “If you want to come to Ireland some time and go backpacking for four months and take pictures we’d be happy to have you!”.
On the one hand shit happens. But there seems to be some deeper things going on here. For one it’s the impunity with which some person in a glass box can get a funny feeling and send you packing. Also there’s my own experience of privilege that says “this shouldn’t happen to people like me”.
The UK gives no real shits about any of this of course. “As soon as Irish customs phones UK customs you’re fucked” explained the Irishman. It makes sense, Irish customs doesn’t know what to do with me and they don’t want to make the decision them selves, so they call the UK, and the UK figures “hey, if they bothered to call us this person must be sketchy…might as well say no and let Irish customs deal with it”. And so for the next several hours the mostly friendly Irish folks have to go out of their way to put me some place and then get me back on a plane.
Also, the “some place” they put me was interesting. First it was “that seat over there”, followed by “come with us” and a seat in a little back hall. Occasionally airport staff would wander by and I could over hear the folks in the security/immigration/something office, “what is it with the UK!”. Then I had to pee…no one in sight…minutes tick by…and now I’m knocking on the door and poking my head in and asking for the bathroom. A policeman in a huff (not at me though I don’t think, seemed friendly) took me to an odd square room with bright lights and a high ceiling. It was pretty clearly the “detention room” with decent aesthetics…but when the doors don’t have knobs and everything’s bolted down you notice. He unlocked the bathroom door and it was like a clean tidy little jail, a solid metal toilet with to seat, and the door of the room doesn’t latch or anything so the door’s slightly open while I pee.
Now, this stuff doesn’t bother me, much. I don’t feel less of a person and I don’t care if you hear me pee…but I also know that many people spend many days and nights in rooms like this…often much much worse then this…and just being shut in a room with no people and no door knobs is…while it’s something.
I was definitely struck by my position. Both my lack of self determination in that moment and also the vast amount of privilege I have. How might I have been treated if I wasn’t white? What if I’d had a turban? No one told me exactly why I was turned away…maybe I’m not rich enough or I have a beard or I was just unlucky…but if I had been Muslim everyone would have assumed they knew exactly why I was turned away. And they probably would have been right.
Back to my clean cubical of doom though, I was briefly sent back to the hall bench only to be ushered back to the cubical a few minutes later. So I sat in the cube a while until the friendly in-a-huff policeman came back and asked if I had any sharp or dangerous things in my pockets…”no”…he asked me some other questions and I just showed him everything in my pockets, “yes” I had a belt…he needed to take that. Odd I thought, must be some weird protocol bull shit. I suspect he wasn’t just trying to be humiliating and difficult…maybe his boss was, either way I found it intriguingly odd. He took all my things out into the hall…”okay” I thought, but then maybe five minutes later he returned, took me into the hall, gave me all my things back, and sent me off with the aforementioned friendly Irishman.
This man had my passport along with a large brown envelope “for the pilot”. “They’ll take your passport and give it back to you when the plane lands”. Again, kinda understand, kinda demeaning, kinda just weird.
I get the very very back seat, right between the two bathrooms, with no view of any kind…and away we go!
My next bus is arriving…gotta go!