Whenever I think of anything to do with immigration, I get a shiver of crazy.
My first brush with American immigration happened when I turned up alone at Dulles International Airport newly arrived from London. It was 1980, my boyfriend was seriously ill and I was desperate to get to Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland where he was being treated. There was no time to complete the paperwork for an extended stay, so I took my chances.
Unfortunately, the immigration office at passport control was not impressed and I was hauled off into a side-room for a grilling.
Thankfully I was able to corroborate my story, thanks to a call to my boyfriend’s mother who was staying at a motel close to the hospital. With strict instructions to attend the Immigration Department in Los Angeles within a specified time frame, I was allowed to travel on with a stern warning that I was lucky not to have been deported.
Indeed. I was extremely grateful for my lucky break.
In my own private mayhem, I struggled with my heavy luggage while fumbling about for the right coins with which to make a phone call for a taxi. Finding an AT&T phone booth but not knowing the difference between a nickel and a dime, I had to ask the guy in the next booth for help. I got it right eventually.
Even though I lived in California for twenty years, married to an American, I lived and worked as a ‘Permanent Resident’, retaining my British citizenship. It amused me that after going through reams of paperwork, medical tests, background checks, interviews, proof of marriage and financial support, not to mention a few fees to pay for the pleasure, all I got at the end of it was a small, laminated card, the all-important ‘Green Card’. Even though it is actually white.
What really made me smile though was my ‘official’ title, spelled in big letters above my photograph, which read:
As such, my status as a ‘resident alien’ allowed me everything except the right to vote and attend jury service. A shame really, as I was summoned three different times but each time I had to decline. A shame because I have never been summoned back in Britain.
So why this post? It’s great to have Lisa back again with her Bite-Size Memoir challenge which she is running fortnightly (do we still use that word?) for the time being (lovely to see you Lisa!). Her prompt of ‘crazy’ reminded me of my many immigration misadventures – they obviously left their mark – but it is a very different kind of alien that I write about for the ‘Bite’, in 150 words no more, no less:
During the summer of 1979, a special event came to Ipswich. My boyfriend and I had been intrigued for weeks by the mysterious posters plastered all around town announcing the next big film. The black background with a strange, egg-shaped thing suspended in the middle was compelling enough, but what really had us going were the words:
‘In space no one can hear you scream’.
The Odeon cinema in Ipswich had one, huge screen with graduated seating and an usherette selling Kia-Ora orange juice and ice cream at the intermission.
The big moment arrived. Glued to the big screen, the atmosphere electric, we watched, terrified, as John Hurt writhed in helpless agony. When the alien ripped out of his chest, I was out of my seat and down on the floor, flinging my drink all over my boyfriend who thankfully, was laughing hysterically.
Nothing like a bit of shock value.