So far this year I have taken 23 flights. This means a scary amount of time hanging around in airports, and in particular time spent waiting in the boarder control lines to get back into the UK. I snort laugh in the direction of any panicking Brexiters who continue to proclaim that the UK has no border controls…yes you fucking do.
Normally it is around 45 minutes per trip that I have to spend waiting in the snaking queue surrounded by jetlagged, hungry and confused fellow non-Brits. The worst was a two hour wait where I almost popped a ventricle because they only had three agents on. The best was like winning lotto after a trip to Berlin where there was not a single person in the line ahead of me.
I am normally the one that power walks (read: gallops like a millennial zombie) to the Border line as fast as my jandals will let me, just in the hopes of getting there before whatever plane of foreigners that has just arrived. But with the amount of flying I seem to be doing (and I am about to be in Germany for all of July) I was getting wholeheartedly sick of the hours I spent in that damn line. I’m not even going to start on a rant about those stupid landing cards and the people who forget to fill them out.
So I did what I should have done a year ago and joined the Registered Traveler Scheme. Essentially if you meet the criteria you can pay the government £70 a year for the privilege of using the e-gates (turning your 45min+ wait into a 5min wait). I think what took me so long to sign up is that I still consider it a bit of a rip off, and it’s not like waiting in a line for a bit is going to kill you. But when I only have two days in London between trips I just don’t have the time to waste. Government you win this round.
Anyway since this seemingly ends my interactions with the front line of Brexit, those hard working border control agents who have not smiled in 80 years, I thought I would bring you my most memorable ‘getting back into the country’ stories. Although in saying that, I tried to use the e-gates for the first time this week and it threw up a ‘Seek Assistance’ error and I had to go to an agent anyway. Sigh.
- Airport: London Heathrow
The very first time I came into the UK on my ancestry visa, all excited about moving to London, the agent asked ‘Who did you get this visa through’ and I answered “my Mum’s Mum”. “Your GRANDMOTHER” he angrily replied as if he had caught me out in a massive lie, before going on to ask if she was still alive. I said no, to which he said the sentence that still sticks in my brain to this day “Well, as least she was a bit useful then”. Fuck you Mr border control man.
- Airport: Stockholm Arlanda
This is still the best thing that has happened to me in an airport. After flicking through my passport for a good five minutes (and me getting more and more concerned about what was wrong) the good looking Swedish man checking it looked me straight in the eye and said “I’ve had you before”. I mean, I always have a good time in Sweden but not so good that I would forget sleeping with someone. After seeing my startled expression he turned bright red and clarified that he had stamped my passport before.
- Airport: London Heathrow
On the trip from Berlin mentioned above I was riding high that I got to go straight to the desk (after still having to walk through that snaking line even though there was no one there) but then the agent started quizzing me about my job in detail that I had never seen before. ‘What type of analyst are you’, ‘What are your hours like’, ‘Where are you based’ – I thought it was because I was dressed in a kitten t-shirt and ripped jeans so he was skeptical weather I was telling the truth. Nope, turns out he was incredulous that I was full time employed rather than going contracting. He said I was making a big mistake, and that if I went contracting I would be making far more money and have a better CV. Maybe that’s why the lines take so long, because they are not only protecting the border but also giving out career advice.
- Airport: Cologne
It was a late flight and I was feeling rather ratty, when I handed over my passport the boarder agent frowned as he flipped through it. He then called over his manager who joined him in the intense study of the pages. Then his colleague sitting with him in the booth got involved with the flipping and the feeling. At this point I was wondering if I was going to be on the next plane out of there but no, after all that he stamped and handed my passport back to me saying “New Zealanders have the most beautiful passports”. Thanks?