Now that I am safely in the country I can relate the nail-biting story of how I almost wasn’t let into the UK which only some people know.
(It is at this point I am sure my mother is having some kind of angina attack – hi Mom!).
So…on Monday….as I filling out my customs paperwork for some boxes I shipped, I looked over my passport and realized that for the last 3 months I had been reading my visa issue date as an American. So 07/09/2013 was July 9th to me.
It’s actually September 7!
And then the panic sets in. And of COURSE it’s 10PM so who the hell can I call. I try to sleep.
I spend four hours the next morning being shuttled around and realizing that you could be on fire and American government agencies aren’t going to help you. And the Brits love their cheery automated messages that don’t take you to any live people.
The accent starts to lose it’s charm in these moments.
I eventually speak to immigration officers at Heathrow, including one chief, who all assure me it will be fine.
Let’s not kid ourselves – it did not convince me. So the next 72 hours were nail biting.
The plane ride? Splendid.
The food? Not bad.
The passengers…still odd.
Watched After Earth (why was this made?), Epic (why was this made?), and part of Django (meh?).
We land. We deplane. I start to get anxious.
Intellectually, I know that as an American I get a free pass. Even though I DID shave my beard the night before to give myself some bonus points. It says something fucked up about our world when I have to shave my beard to avoid suspicion. As if the purple glasses and eyebrow piercing are not enough evidence that I’m no extremist unless it comes to hyperbole.
So I get to the passport desk and wait behind 9 other people. All the stories I heard are pretty accurate: Passport agents don’t look like happy people. But I can only imagine the foreign hell they go through at those desks.
It’s finally my turn. I have decide that of the two agents working my line I want the younger one who seems nicer and might be more sympathetic to my cause. The older one looks haggard and her lips are pursed to within a centimeter of their threshold.
And…of course…we all know which one I end up getting. I walk up. And this is what ensues:
Purse Lipped Lady: Passport.
Overcompensating Sevan: Sure! Here you go! [I should point out, I am still sick and sound like Harvey Fierstein AND I am trying to suppress coughing so they don’t think I have TB which they are on the watch for.]
PLL: Index finger.
Pregnant pause for tension. THUNK! THUNK!
PLL: Thank you. Step through.
I am confused by walk through anyway.
All that worry and driving my friends insane asking them if I will be ok and that is what I get. Not even a double take.
I go to collect my luggage. I remember my music mix and hit play. “Astonishing” plays. The combination of Tony’s taste in music and the serendipity of my iPhone shuffle is too good.
I collect my bags. They’ve already been going around for a while. I realize that I am single person and will no doubt get stared for what I am walking out with.
Look I have things. Lots of things. I need my things. I am a nester. I sometimes hoard. I like having my things around me.
Maneuvering this was akin to a Benny Hill sketch. But I manage and make my way out to meet my driver who is 30 minutes late.
It’s less bougie than it sounds. Black cabs cost an arm and a leg and mini-cabs are MUCH cheaper.
Type A and Anal Retentive = I did my fucking homework before I got on that plane.
I enjoyed a more than leisurely 35 minute ride to the flat I am staying in. It’s night, sure, but there are still some warm sights welcoming me. The air is crisp. It doesn’t
smell like fuel, fumes, or…New York. The roads aren’t bumpy. Everyone is driving on the other side of the street and it ain’t bothering me one bit!
There is one thing I do miss though. A view. When you land in New York and drive from the airport you can’t help but marvel at the skyline. It gives you a reference point. An anchor. Something to tell you that you’re home and in familiar territory. This music mix is killing me because there are some damn good songs playing back-to-back and I am suddenly filled with a flurry of memories and moments from the last 6 years and I can’t help but smile and wonder and then realize that I am ok with not knowing what in the hell is going to happen next.
I eventually get to my final destination. A flat in a converted Victorian House. A quiet street perpendicular to the busy thoroughfare of the town. I’ve passed several Arab shops – many of which are Lebanese – and I wonder even more how splendidly hilarious and well-timed the universe is in some things.
I’ve been pining to live closer to and within my community. To live in more of a mix since my neighborhood has been gentrifying at the sound of White for the last two years.
And here I am seeing Persian, Lebanese, Indian, Polish and a few Brit stores, restaurants, and groceries. I feel oddly at home. Serene?
And I’m still not sleepy.
I drag all my luggage upstairs and spend the next two hours assembling a bed I ordered ahead of time because I knew I would need something to sleep on.
And realize there is going to be a learning curve. Mattresses in London….not like in America. Size – softness – construction. I am sure there will be a spring lodged in my anus by the morning. It’s gonna be a battle with the bed. But it’s there, it’s not bad, and I literally fall exhausted and dead asleep by 2AM. No jetlag. No complaints. Just blissful sleep.