Wednesday, March 08, 2017

there wasn't another one

We’re halfway between Manchester and Liverpool and I remember to take down the notes on the things that I’m seeing on the way in here. There was a man in the front seats as I got on who was wiping his eyes gently as he watched a small tablet with the screen light on low, a video of a young twenty-something couple’s mouths kissing up close and passionately, he might have just picked up watching some porn or a tragic romance, but I was bustled forwards before I could see something that would decide it. Further back, a man with a soft dark navy hooded top poured a miniature of jack daniels into a plastic cup and topped it up with coca-cola from a proper red can, and then stared intently at his white ovaloid headphones nestled in the palm of his hand while he was waiting for the bubbles to go down, trying to figure out which ear each one goes in. A tall man, broad and bulky for his height, grey faced, somewhere deepening into his sixties in a local government blue suit, holds the complementary sun newspaper open close to his face, the all caps headline simply shouts posh spite. The man across the aisle finds that the middle pages of his daily mail keep falling on the floor each time he turns a page, it’s happened twice and now, the third time, he doesn’t bother to retrieve them, they’re already read, yesterday’s news, he’s going to leave the tabloid on the front seats as he disembarks anyway. There’s a party of 7 women, mostly middle-aged, from the democratic republic of congo who are all sitting together, Belfast is the final airport in what must have been a long day in a series of airports and planes. I stood behind them in the queue for domestic transfers at the last airport, when the first of them reached the front and was called forward to the border guard to have her passport inspected, the whole group moved as one, and the single agent cheerfully processed them turn by turn. I was navigated past them and saw the agent’s terminal as I joined the next queue to have my face photographed for the internal security checks, on it I could see that each member of the group had submitted several pieces of paperwork, not just a passport, and that their fingerprints were being checked or registered. A bored border guard sat at a terminal which was closed, the lengthy queue ignored, and was reading a daily mail article in her facebook feed in a browser on the computer that checks your identity, and flicked a couple of times to an amazon page but I couldn't see what she was shopping for, although it didn't look like it was books or other culture or content carrying objects. A young man with an american accent had been patiently answering a long series of slightly-hard-to-answer questions at another terminal, yes, he’d been a student for over two years, he was returning for his final semester, he left the country on that date and so yes, he’d been out of the country for that many days. The border security guard unfolded a letter on headed paper from the university explaining the student’s entitlement to attend the course he had been attending, written in long paragraphs in small text, and started to attempt to skim read it. The party of 7 congolese women moved to the next queue, having overtaken the american student en masse.