I am on my way from Guatemala City to London Heathrow after spending three months in Central America. I have a stopover of a few hours in Miami International airport and I am in good spirits as I land in the good old US of A.
I’m happy because I like layovers in America, largely because I vaguely feel like I’m in a movie when I’m surrounded by American people. Also, I feel like my English accent sounds quite exotic to Americans.
I trundle off the plane with my fellow flyers, ready to make the transition from aircraft to airport. I notice a young lady with a baby and hope I’m not seated anywhere near the precious little tyke when we board the next flight.
I am shuffling along in the queue for the airport security. It’s quite a long, time-consuming process but I don’t mind. In fact, I’m pleased the passport control people are doing a thorough job. The last thing I want to see is them waving everyone through, taking nothing but the slightest of glances at passports.
I can see the yellow line, which means it’s nearly my turn and I’m looking forward to getting the other side now. Perhaps I’ll have a cup of iced tea and a large sausage roll. I haven’t side a cup of iced tea and a large sausage roll for ages!
I walk up to the counter and hand over my documentation.
“Hi”, I say and get no response but that’s okay because this man is important and he’s at work. He’s a working man in an important job and it is not in the best interests of security for me to distract him.
The security man looks at my passport photo then looks at me. Then he looks back at my passport photo then looks back at me for a longer time. I realise his look has become a stare.
Why is he staring at me? Do I warrant staring at? Should I stare back? I don’t think I should stare back. Instead I begin a mild form of interrogation.
“Is everything alright?”
“Hey!” and I flinch as he is now shouting over to his fellow security man and beckoning him over. “That ain’t him”, he announces to his colleague.
I smile because I know that it is me. There is definitely a photograph of me in my passport. There has been since I was 16 years old and I am now 24 years old.
“Ummmm….. hmmmm….. yeah… I dunno. He definitely looks different.”
This is an outrage. This security man is agreeing with the first security man. I look behind me and become instantly aware that lots of people now think I’m dangerous. Or a drugs mule. I can’t believe they think I’m a drugs mule. How am I going to convince everyone I’m not a drugs mule.
If I were a drugs mule I would most certainly not forge a passport. I wouldn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention. Great, so now they think I must be a bad drugs mule. A stupid, incapable drugs mule. Everybody knows once you’ve been tarred with that brush, there’s no turning back.
What if they don’t let me through? What if they want to carry out an inspection? The sort of inspection that involves nothing but a rubber glove and a spoon?!
I offer an explanation as to why they are having trouble identifying me from my passport photo.
“It IS quite an old photo, but it’s definitely me”, I say as two pairs of eyes stare at me.
“HEY!”, security man number one wants a third opinion, is calling over yet another colleague and my disbelief deepens.
“Yeeeeaaahh. Yeah, his ears are the same”, says security man number three.
Finally. Some sense. But hang on a minute, what does he mean? My ears are the same? Has everything else about me changed so dramatically over the last eight years?
Is every other facial feature now so unrecognisable that only my ears remain untouched by the ageing process and are the sole facet of my cranium to which I can be distinguished?
I decide that rather than verbalise any of these questions, it is better for me to accept their decision and continue quietly into the airport.
I look around for a cafe and buy a cup of iced tea. They don’t sell sausage rolls and I realise Miami International airport is a massive let down.