Following my trend of writin things down a month after they happen, here’s a recap of England. It was awesome. It’s grey and rainy and everyone has fantastic accents. They drive on the wrong side of the road and use all sorts of silly words. The humour is questionable at best and their spelling is worse. The food, believe it or not, is actually fantastic and the people are quite welcoming. I think I’m going to live there someday.
Yes, I did go to London, and it was pretty sweet. I also saw Oxford in all of its snooty, self-involved wonder. And, we went wandering in the British countryside, which is as amazing as it sounds. And now that I’ve thoroughly explained why I love England, I’ll share one anecdote, my first experience with the country.
After leaving my place at 4:30 in the morning and walking the empty streets of Pavia to the train station, I caught the 5am bus to Milan. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I did the only thing that made sense and got an espresso at the airport bar. Feeling a little more awake, I headed through security and tried to go to the British Airways area of the airport. It wasn’t open yet, so I went elsewhere and entertained myself for an hour or so.
When the plane arrived, we all lined up Italian-style; everyone pushed forward in a sort of mass reminiscent of a school of fish or a herd of lemmings rushing to the cliff. Luckily, there was no cliff, just a bus that took us to our plane. Somehow, despite a two thousand year-old tradition of being late for everything, our plane managed to take off early.
We made it to the foggy isles in almost no time at all. As we landed, I prepared myself to clap, but there was no applause. I guess the plane was mostly full of Brits, because Italians like to show their appreciation of pilots. We disembarked in a slightly orderly fashion and headed into the terminal. I was psyched to be in England and excited to see Alice, but what I hadn’t counted on was British immigration.
I came around a corner to see a giant mass. This mass was my mass. All the other people from the plane skirted it and headed to the EU citizens line which was moving in a brisk and orderly fashion. I, on the other hand, took my place in the line that would inevitably steal forty-five minutes of my life. I resigned myself to a bit of line-time and listened to music while I waited my turn.
Finally, I reached the front and it was my turn. I headed to one of the little glass cages where they keep immigration officials. The lady was cold and far from polite, but it was about what I’d expected from England, so I went with it. She asked me why I was in the country, and I told her that I was there to see a friend. In response, she stared at me blankly. I tried again, thinking along the lines of business or pleasure, I threw out “pleasure?” This didn’t please her, so she asked me again. I told her I was going to visit a friend and it sunk in the second time around.
Having passed the test, I watched excitedly for her to stamp my passport and let me go. But she was far from finished. The interrogation had just begun. She proceeded to ask me Alice’s name and citizenship, how we met, how long we’d known each other. Luckily, I was able to answer these questions. The problems arose when the lady asked me where I’d be staying for the week. Being a college-age student going to visit a friend, I had no idea about the specifics. This vexed the immigration witch to no end and she got very upset. After asking me how much money I had on my person (uh, dunno, 20 euro), she decided to make sure that IF she did let me into the country, I would at least leave. It went a little something like this:
“Do you have a ticket to leave in a week.”
“Well of course.”
“Can I see it?”
“Oh, sorry, no it’s…”
“Yeah, an e-ticket.”
“So can I see it?”
“Uh… no, it’s… online…”
Despite my impertinence, she was forgiving and offered a solution. Ten minutes later, I returned after having gone to stand in another line to wait for a print-out of my receipt from the British Airways counter. Unfortunately, my favorite inquisitor was busy emotionally destroying an African man. His interrogation was proceeding much as mine had. His problem arose when he didn’t know what his cousin did at the bank that he worked at. Let’s be honest, no one knows what a relative does at a bank, not because it’s complicated or secret, but because it’s unreasonably boring.
Unfortunately, another man in line was a good person and decided to help. He approached the beast’s pen and tried to say something. This was not a good idea, as the power-mad official flew into a rage and sent both men to the ‘departures lounge’. I’m, luckily, still unsure of what this lounge is. I imagine it as a well furnished lounge that looks vaguely like a hospital waiting room, but with refreshments. The only thing you can hear over the general sounds of sadness is the elevator music that’s not calming anyone down and that one guy yelling to his lawyer on his cell phone about how he has rights and how they can’t do this.
Returning to the matter at hand, after the expulsion of the two friendly African men, it was finally my turn to try again. Luckily, her rage was so profound that all she could do was mutter, be unfriendly and stamp my passport. I sprinted away covering my ears so she couldn’t call me back for more torture.
It took several days for England to redeem itself after I got to meet the hellspawn with which they man their borders. I’ve gotta say, it’s more effective than minutemen…