The Gilded Serpent presents...
Getting Shagged on
Virgin Atlantic  
by Kayla Summers

We have been reading about Kayla's adventures in the Middle East for some time now. She had decided to return to Turkey (by way of England) after a sojourn in California, her other home. This is what happened. 

This is about a trip that took two days but never went anywhere.

Due to strange fortune, I live in two places: California and Istanbul. Having performed maintenance (chopping countless cords of wood, terracing land and painting ) on my parents' estate in California, I made plans to return to Istanbul. A girlfriend, Nagela, with whom I had gone camping on the Mediterranean coast the previous year, had just finished her dissertation in Brussels, had met an Englishman and was living with in him in Portsmouth (pronounced "Portsmith" - I don't know why).

She wrote to me, "Hey, gurlfriend, on your way back to Istanbul, why not stop by here?"

The reason that I've never been to the United Kingdom is simple: I have no interest in it. I have traveled for long periods from Bali to the Yucatan peninsula, but the U.K. simply does not attract me.

"Oh c'mon, you'll love it! We can go camping in Wales! Check out London, see Portsmouth! Rex {her fiancee} will drive us to Stonehenge!"

My mother, who adores London, encouraged me. She pulled out her plethora of London guide books, and I read about the museums, walking tours, galleries, pubs and bridges. Nothing caught my interest, but I was returning to Istanbul and the trip is long. A break, anywhere, would be welcome. As a travel writer, I could explore a different route to Turkey: perhaps a ferry from Portsmouth to France? Maybe from France to Italy on some vessel or on the trains? As an experienced traveler, I know that I have to "be there" to find out what is actually available or feasible.

I wrote back to Najela in the affirmative. My mother was so delighted that she lent her credit card number to hold reservations at the Indian YMCA in Bloomsbury, chosen for its proximity to the "sights" and its affordability for my frugal accounts. I had hoped that mom would float the whole London tour, but the "Y" wanted to settle up on arrival.

The plan was that I would meet Najela in London at the Indian YMCA, "do London", take a coach to Portsmouth, tour Portsmouth. Possible camping in Wales. Definitely Stonehenge. Then review the ways to get to Istanbul - back to my apartment, my own kitchen, my rose bushes . . .

I bought a one-way ticket on Virgin Atlantic, SFO to Heathrow, in cash. SFO security was the usual mad affair. When they found I was traveling alone, I was pulled aside to be thoroughly checked to make sure my underwire bra would not blow them up.

Somewhere along the line a small triangular sticker had been placed on my passport, referring to Virgin Atlantic security. I bore the ten-hour flight fairly well, despite stereo baby screams, small, hard seats and saccharine-sweet and unhelpful flight attendants. Well, it was economy. I arrived at Heathrow, where the nightmare began. Bear in mind, gentle readers, that for me it was really four a.m., contrary to the clock in the airport that stated ten a.m.

The immigration officer perused my passport and wanted to see my ticket. I explained the reason for the one-way ticket. "Do you have any money?" I whipped out five hundred in cash. I had access to more but felt this was enough to get started. She began counting it. Usually five one-hundred dollar bills get counted pretty quickly . . . the officer was not only counting them, but checking their authenticity.

She asked me what was I going to do in London? I went blank. I knew I had an itinerary of every hour in London in my suitcase, and although I wrote it myself . . . I guess I mentioned museums, bridges, uhhhh.

The officer wanted a "second interview" and the name and number of the person I was meeting. I began balking. Really, I have travelled all sorts of countries for the last twenty years, and never have I spoken with an officer for more than five minutes.

The supervisor arrived. Now I knew something was wrong! "What is wrong?" The two officers were smug. "Have you traveled to the U.K. before?" "No." "Well, we always do this to everyone." "All the people that I came in with are now collecting their bags and on their way. "

So what’s really going on?" "Well, you may be a . . . flight risk." My jaw dropped "Fly from what? Where? Here?"

Of late, life has been sweet, albeit strange. The idea of "flying away" from any of it left me incredulous; even more ludicrous was that I would choose the U.K.. I mean . . . Refugees whose lives are in danger in their homeland go to the U.K.. They go to the U.K . because they have no other options, not because they like the place.

"Here?" I repeat. The supervisor nodded, "Yes, here.” "You gotta be kidding! I live in two of the finest places in the world, California and Istanbul. Why on earth would I give all that up for cold weather, warm beer and pigeon pie?"

We meandered toward the secondary interview. I sat for an hour, then the officer called me over to begin the interview with a few questions, like "Do you have children? Are you single? How much money do you make? What are you going to do in Istanbul?" I replied yes to having a grown daughter. Yes to being single. As a retired trauma nurse, a stipend takes care of my income. It’s not much, but it keeps me honest. The real question was what do I do? I write travel articles for The Gilded Serpent. I teach conversational English to "covered women". I "do" a lot of things I was left to wait. At this point my sciatica was kicking up, and the idea of sitting for another hour, after an already long flight, was unbearable. I was allowed to lie on the floor, and I used one of the travel books to roll under my back for support. This actually proved to be a good idea, because it took the officer two hours to make the call and to try to confirm with a complete stranger my eligibility for entry.

Returning, the accusatorial officer said, "Your friend says you are a yoga instructor."

"Yeah, so?"

"You said you were a writer."

"How does one exclude the other?”

Officer: "Your friend says your mother is financing the trip."

Me "Really? God, that would be great!”. But I didn't want to get in trouble for lying, so I explained the credit card reservation hold, which was extremely nice of Mom, but hardly full financing.

There were more bizarre questions. The theme was: who was really financing this trip? My responses grew more tentative. I mean, what did she want? The officer was not happy with my answers and I was becoming less responsive. She left. I returned to the floor. Two more hours passed. Round three began She scribed her queries and my responses on a legal pad. I thought this was strange. After all, in the age of accountability, shouldn’t they have tape recorders?

Our interview was turning into an interrogation. Each page was to be signed. I asked to read what she wrote before I signed. She sighed, "Fine," and allowed me to read. I pointed out that not only was she not writing verbatim what was said, but the interrogation seemed rather slanted; also, words were not spelled correctly, which could cause even more confusion.

She replied in a dry voice, "You're not being very cooperative." She continued with her mantra, "Who's really financing this vacation?" I resisted all temptation to say, "You caught me! I'm an Al Qaida!" Instead I said, "Mom?"

"When did you leave India?"

.“It’s in the passport."

"I want you to tell me."

I am horrible with dates, and had not studied my passport in awhile. I didn't know that there would be a test, and apparently I did not get the answers right. It occurred to me that after six hours of interrogation, they were not going to let me go. I mean six hours of this bullshit and then they would dare to let me loose on the city to vent? Even though I wouldn't do that! The mantra continued: "Who is really financing this trip?"

The officer left again and I returned to the floor. The clock now read four in the afternoon, and I had not a clue what my internal one was saying, other than "Lie down and sleep!"

I began screaming, "If you're not going to let me in, then let me out! This is enough!"

Then a woman about 5'9" and three hundred plus pounds arrived. She was sporting big hair and Maybelline blue eye shadow. She looked like Divine in "Hairspray", and had a skinny plainclothes policeman in tow. She tossed me a pamphlet and said, "There's your complaint form; we will hold onto your passport and send you home. " I screamed that she could certainly send me home but I was leaving with the passport She said she'd have it given back to me on my arrival on U.S. soil. "Just because you're an American, it doesn’t mean we have to let you in."

"Yeah, . . . I guess what with the revolution and all. . . "

She sneered, "We can't let just anyone in." Well, I've never been referred to as "just anyone". It was kind of a compliment for me. As I gazed at this Divine look-alike, I had to wonder why they were trying to make me feel bad. Wasn’t deporting me enough? Despite giving them more information than I give my accountant, I was denied entry for not giving enough information and for having a bad attitude about interrogations. I was then warehoused until my flight back to the states. Mug shots were taken.

The deportation papers read "V90 -SFO via NY." A supervisor from Virgin Atlantic met me in New York. I asked her where I would get the connecting flight to SFO. Curtly she replied, "We are not responsible for getting you all the way back."

I said, "What about the deportation order? . Anyway, you picked me up at SFO. "

"We are only responsible for getting you back to America." She hissed, "You were deported!"

She took me to a police officer and made the exchange, handed me back my passport and disappeared. The officer was very nice, suggesting alternative routes home and where I might spend the night, encouraging me not to cry. I spent the night in Terminal Four, on a very clean floor, along with two Polish lads who were awaiting their flight. I bought a ticket on Jet Blue to Oakland. Jet Blue is a fine airline - I recommend it. There are individual tv’s that one can change at will, and a calm, courteous staff. If it was great under those awful conditions, imagine how nice it would be for a regular trip.

The next day another friend and I traveled to the Congresswoman's office in Oakland, to see if I was perhaps on a" bad person's list", or to just learn what was the cause of this event - a trip which proved fruitless.

My friend asked, "What day did you leave?" I said the first of September. She said, “Gosh, now it’s the fourth!"

And that’s how I spent two days in transit and never went anywhere.

[Ed- While researching for this piece we found this site- www.virginaircrewlies.com]

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