Monday, August 2, 2010

2 - The Anus of Darkness

Five days have now passed, UPS is providing the same daily carousel of impotence: No, they can’t phone customs themselves to underline the urgency of the packet. And no, the brokerage can’t do more than it’s doing. And no, they don't have a number for US customs to give me. And no, the brokerage can't give me one either. My departure hour is daily getting closer, and I'm daily getting more frantic. But franticdom being the mother of all inspiration, and customs now being the purview of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) I decide to phone aforesaid DHS. I’m so frantic I can hardly see straight but there’s a number winking at me from the centre of the page; all I get, of course, is a new electronic carousel: Please note, the options on our main menu change periodically - if you have three heads and five feet, press 2; if you're over 92 and have a prolapsed scrotum press 7; to hear this in Urdu press 9.

Conrad's Hear of Darkness - Antechamber

View Conrad's Hear of Darkness - Antechamber in a larger map

I'm now ultra-frantic, and ultra-franticdom being the mother of all ultra-inspiration, my fevered eye clears, registers that I’ve just phoned the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration National Customer Service Centre, and alights slightly higher upon a Citizen Line with an operator number. Well I might not be a US citizen, still coming under Her Britannic Majesty’s purview, but this clearly looks like a DHS hot tip line for reporting terrorist suspects and imminent dirty bombs. Well, they're doing a dirty with my passport, aren’t they, even if I’m not a citizen. Here I get a human voice in no time.

‘I have an emergency,’ quoth I.

‘Hold on a moment,’ HV (human voic) replies magisterially, passing me on to another HV to whom I unroll my schpiel.

‘I'm not doing anything with your passport,’ says HV no: 2.

‘I don't mean you personally, individually,’ says I, ‘but your freaking department.’

‘Well, you're misusing this line,’ says HV, ‘it’s not my department (well, how was I to know they put me through to the FBI?) and you need ice.’

‘You bet I need ice, I'm burning up over here.’

‘No! ICE! I C E! Immigration and Customs Enforcement…


‘And no, I don't have their number.’ Click.

  "Nor has Coriol-anus deserved this so dishonour'd rub" - Shakespeare, Coriolanus Act III, scene I

Fortunately, ICE too has a hot tip line to report immigration or customs violations. Well, stopping my passport's legal immigration is a violation, is it not?

‘No, I don’t mean you personally,’ I gulp. HV no: 3, just like his immediate predecessor, takes my plea as a personal accusation.

‘Anyway you don’t need ICE, you need CBP,’ quoths he.

‘What? Coronary Bypass…’

‘No! CBP! C B P! Customs and Border Protection.’


‘And no, I don't have their number.’ Click.

Lurking half way down CBP's web page I find a number for Public Liaison Officer, Ports of Entry. Not only that, but I actually get straight through to him without any intermediary firewall. And what’s more, he actually wants details.

‘Why didn't you seek a Somaliland visa in the US?’

‘Because they ain't got no mission here, that’s why, Guv.’

He says he'll look into it and phone back. This is too good to be true. It must just be the kinder, gentler fob-off.

Passport on Road to Freedom

Six hours later the phone rings. It’s my friendly Public Liaison Officer. Not only has he kept his word, but he announces the glad tidings: my passport has been freed. He’ll get fired for such efficiency.

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