“Hi there” said Sandy, “I hear you’re having a problem.”
She had trolled over with Jill and Sally. She was the manager.
“I’m afraid we can’t let you travel without a visa. And the stamps in your passport aren’t proof enough that you’ve been to Hong Kong without a visa.”
I started wondering if I was caught up in an absurdist play that I’d forgotten I’d auditioned for.
“If that is the case Sandy quite what are they doing there? Do you think that I’ve been sat at home fashioning Hong Kong entrance stamps out of potato and red inking my passport? To what possible end? To impress girls? Is that what you think of me Sandy? That I would fake travel to Hong Kong to impress the women of Guangzhou who live two hours north of Hong Kong that I’d been to Hong Kong? Would my ability to board a train and ride it successfully make their knickers fly off in uncontained lust?”
Sandy just kind of looked at me opened mouthed. I continued.
“Or do you believe that I have indeed been to Hong Kong as indicated by the frankly ludicrous amount of stamps in my passport but, for reasons even I am unable to articulate, have ripped out my Hong Kong visa on each occasion? Perhaps in a fit of pique at having to return to mainland China? Nothing gets past you does it Sandy? I bet the Canterbury police department threw up their arms in dismay when you chose to work at this humble airport rather than becoming the crack investigator you were destined to become.”
“Not now Jill,” I said, “I’m talking to Sandy. What happened to the dream Sandy? What happened? All those crimes, the public good you could’ve done. But no, you’re here stopping a relatively innocent man from going home!”
By this point a number of people had stopped to watch. One or two applauded as I drew breath. I was about to launch into another tirade against the unremitting stupidity of it all when Jill piped up again from behind the counter.
“Listen” she said insistently, “If you buy an onward ticket to Guangzhou then you can transit through Hong Kong. I can book you on now if you like.”
My eyes opened wide with relief. I sighed. Jill sighed. Sandy sighed. Sally had wondered off a minute ago but came back just then with a packet of biscuits.
“Tim Tam?” she offered.
I ignored her and focused my hardened look on Jill.
“Is it direct?” I said suspiciously, wondering who would set up a flight between Guangzhou and Hong Kong. They are an hour apart on the bullet train.
“Er…no, I’m afraid not. You’ll have to transfer flights.”
I reached for a Tim Tam, lifted it delicately into Jill’s eye line and crushed it inside its wrapper.
Sandy was on the phone. She nodded once clicked it down on the receiver.
“The overseer said we can let you fly, if you sign a waiver stating that you will take responsibility for what happens to you the other side.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” I was punching the air, “I’ll sign anything.”
After a few formalities, asking how many tiers of management this company had and an official looking piece of paper I was heading through the security check.
I was heading home.
This is a mostly true story. However, the ending is a little boring. So, to pep it up a little, here are three alternative endings. Pick whichever one you like the most.
1) …I made my way to the gate. The place where the plane should be was empty. There was no one around apart from an elderly and dejected looking janitor sweeping up discarded paper coffee cups and crisp packaging. “Flight’s gone son” he said with a nod. The PA crackled into life. I recognised the voice, it was Sandy.
“Would the man who gave me and my colleagues an hour long lecture on the rise and fall of the British Empire please note that the next flight to Hong Kong leaves tomorrow. And also, you’re a dick mate.”
The janitor patted my shoulder as I cried in huge, gulping sobs.
2)…I got back to my apartment in Guangzhou. Without unpacking a single item I ran to my bedroom. There, in a neat line across the bottom of the window were 17 precisely removed Hong Kong visas.
“It’s okay,” I said sibilantly “daddy’s home.”
3)…upon arriving in Hong Kong I was detained in an immigration cell for three days. Apparently, you do need a visa to go to Hong Kong. Who knew?