martes, 10 de enero de 2012

"An Extra Bar Won't Stop the Bending."

The following records the journey from Calafate (South Argentina) to Ushuia (the southern most city in the world...yes, still in Argentina):

I was placed, regally, on seat 20. Seat 20 was a seat behind a mother and her son. The child has Downe’s Syndrome. The child enjoys a number of different past times: kissing anyone that passes, on their lips (no, one can not catch Downe’s Syndrome through kissing. Yes, the thought crossed my mind), demanding all sorts of utterly unrelated material such as teddy bears, crisps and gossip magazines. He also took great pride in screaming when none of the aforementioned items were granted to him. Passer-by’s fell into a chorus of patronising tones and acquiesced to his every request. Uncertainty as to what to do and how to react preoccupied the minds of the majority. The mother, on the other hand, watched idly as discipline flew out the window.

Regardless of the attention the child had been and was probably likely to continue to receive, the child still took it upon itself to scream loudly at frequent intervals. It was at around the hour 10 mark when my humour was really flying at full mast, come hour 15 and I was drafting disgracefully plausible options in my head.

Customs was passed a total of five times but only two actual borders were crossed. It should be noted that I was an illegal alien in Argentina at this point - your visa runs out after 90 days and to renew it one must either pay 300 pesos or leave the country and re-enter. It made sense to take the fine on the chin as I had, after all, been in the country for a period of close to two years with but one leave to England in the books, my option was glaringly obvious. I waited for the inevitable slap on the wrist and healthy fine, come border time.

The bus hit the first crossing and this stern looking woman waited for me ominously at the end of my queue. I changed queues. A voluptuous, impressionable looking lady now awaited me – the Nigella Lawson of the immigration world.

“Hello sir, can we (she was representing the Government...'WE'!) have your proof of entry please?” she asked me kindly.
'Shit, what do I do? Stay calm, only a small fine awaits you. But wait, what if they don't take kindly to my English roots...I'll go to prison...I can't go to prison, look at me, I'd be as pillaged as a Anglo-Saxon settling in the West Midlands, right on the coast...with a nice view...and conservatory,' I panicked. 'Pretend you can't speak Spanish. Yes, that's perfect, smile a lot, play with your hair and remember: you can not speak Spanish.'
The woman asked me once again for the papers that would be responsible for my possible incarceration and inevitable flight of all things pure in this world, oh cruel fate. I snapped out of my Shakespearean monologue and gently smiled at her. She smiled back – this was going well.
“Uhhh, English? I arrive not long go, no realise papers be important.” I said...IN THE ACCENT OF SOMEONE WHO CAN'T SPEAK ENGLISH! 'Fuck, what on earth possessed me to deny knowledge of both the Spanish and English language? Great, they're going to bring in someone who's mastered Bulgarian and I shall go to prison; I'm bringing surplus soaps... “Don't worry about that Tyrone, you can just leave it right there on the bathroom floor, look, here's another bar. What? Why drop that too?”'
My imprisoned musing was interrupted for the second time: “OK sir, but you need to remember next time to keep hold of them.” the woman informed me. I pretended I didn't understand her response, so I just nodded and continued to smile. She gave me my passport and papers, turned to her friend and muttered: “Idiot.” I was an idiot, fantastic news. It was a badge I would gladly wear; an idiot that had been granted his freedom. I glided back to the bus as life rushed uncontrollably through my veins, head held high, breathing in dramatically the Patagonian air, which tasted the same (same) but different.

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