The Immigration Dance

In Brussels I exited the train and then stopped at a Subway outlet to get some lunch. I then set off to find a restroom. I followed the signs and they kept leading me further and further and further away from the departing platform for my train.

After finally finding the bathroom, at the absolute opposite end of the station, I found out that it required one half euro to use. I dug through my spare change a found a one euro coin but the bathroom entry machine only accepted half euro coins. I had no half euros. More time was wasted.

I finally exited the restroom and walked several hundred yards down to the entry area for the platform I was to use for departing to the UK.

I was surprised to see that I had to go through UK customs and immigration. As I entered the queue to show my passport and ticket to the initial screening agent, he said “You have missed your train.” He diverted me over to another window where I was booked on the next departing train to London. Luckily, I still had enough time to make my next connection in London, but just barely.

I then lined up to go through customs and immigration and get mypassport stamped for entry to England.

Now, at this point in the story, I must make a few admissions. First, I have passed through C&I and security screenings many, many times, in many airports and in many countries. Second, I have learned to be honest, succinct and smile. Third, always do as you are instructed by the security agents – like I did the time I went through screening at the airport in San Antonio and the screener thought there was a bomb in my luggage. THAT experience – the 20 policemen and women, the TSA, the bomb squad, the entire wing of the airport closed down and evacuated while I stood spread eagle against the wall with police dogs on each side of me…….well you get the picture…..

Always be honest and succinct and do as you are instructed.

The female Immigration Agent took my ticket and passport asked me where I was going. I did not say “WTF does my ticket say”?

I smiled and politely said “Exeter”.


To see a friend.

For how long?

For two days.

(In the interest of efficiency, I am going to omit quotation marks, commas and all the punctuation crap, since I never can remember the rules anyway)

Then where?

I am not really sure. Maybe Wales, Scotland, Ireland.

For how long?

I am not sure.

Where are you going after visiting the UK?

Probably home.

Where do you live?

In Oregon.

What do you do in Oregon?

Fish. (I smiled, she did not, nor was she impressed. Most people ask ‘For what kind of fish’?

At this point, she thumbed through the pages of my passport and then she tried a different question.

What kind of WORK do you do in Oregon?

I am retired.

Where are you staying for 2 nights in Exeter?

I showed her the reservation confirmation on my phone.
Do you have any other reservations for trains, hotels cars?


Do you have a onward ticket from the UK?

No, not yet.

How much money do you have?

With me?
Yes, with you now. 

I stared off into the distance, acted unimportant and did some calculations.

About four hundred US dollars.
She closed my passport, looked me in the eye (I smiled at her) and she said: 

I cannot allow you to enter the UK. You have no travel plans, no reservations beyond tonight and tomorrow night, no date for when you are leaving, no ticket for onward passage., not enough cash to pay for a ticket to the US.

I was astonished. This has never happened before, anywhere. 

There was a long line of people behind me, as we had taken several minutes to get to this point in the process. The two other lines we moving quickly, each person taking about 30 seconds. 

She pushed my train ticket and passport forward, but I did not pick them up. 

I politely asked what else I could do to continue my onward travel in England. 
Do you have a copy of any statements that show your checking balance? 

No, not with me. It is all electronic.
What is the balance in your checking? What kind of assets do you have available to you to pay for a ticket back to the US from the UK? 

I told her my net worth, as I opened the app to my bank on my phone. 
I showed her a summary of my assets on my phone. 

She picked up my passport, opened it up, stamped it and said “Enjoy your travels in the UK, Mr. Johnson”.


3 thoughts on “The Immigration Dance

  1. All very interesting, Byron. Amazing what the perception of money will do for you, eh? As always, love your pictures and commentary. Safe travels, Spanky


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