Friday, March 28, 2008

Immigrant Song

I am off for my annual visit to the central police station to renew my visa. My usual attention to detail has temporarily lapsed and I am late in applying. This will be taken out on me with a discourse of byzantine bureaucracy. Rightfully so, I have broken the rules and must be punished.

The visit has become a ritual and involves lining up at 6:30 am in perilously cold weather in advance of an 8:00 office opening. By 7:00, the immigrant line winds far down the street. Arriving much later ensures you a ticket number in the high hundreds and a 4 to 5 hour wait to be processed ensues.

I look forward to the event as much as I look forward to a barium enema following a night of beer and curry.

Important preparations are undertaken in advance of the visit. I do not shower or shave for a week and put aside my Saville Row threads to don a soiled shell track suit with a hood.

My training with the French Foreign Legion in undercover snatch raids holds me in good stead. I urinate down my trouser leg and smear elk fat on my face to ensure I blend in.


It is 6:45 and colder than a witch’s tit. The sun rise is obscured by grey snow clouds and swirling flakes. A queue is already forming. A small crowd huddle around a steaming cauldron. Chickens run riot chased by a mangy mutt. A small tethered goat looks nervously to a dark mass sharpening a blade.

I wire myself to my iPOD. I am mission ready. I engage.

I slip seamlessly into the small queue, unnoticed. Within minutes I am in a deep iPOD coma… welcome to the shuffle zone… as if by magic, the device is delivering one rapture inducing tune followed by another. My endorphins are swimming with delight!

I am abruptly struck by the Hammer of the Gods… The zone has been violated... Robert Plant is screaming… ‘AaAaAaaaaaaaaa Aah’… ‘We come from the land of the ice and snow’… My deep meditation is breaking… I am numbing… this whole scene is fucking bleak… I am on the verge of existential depression… I have little misery left to give… Valhalla I am coming.

A familiar whine of guitars breaks through the wall of despair just as a ray of light cracks the overcast horizon… and shines on me… it is my clarion call… I break my cover… I sing at the top of my lungs, ‘I, I will be king… And you, you will be queen… Though nothing will drive them away… We can beat them, just for one day… We can be Heroes, just for one day.’

Smiles are breaking out all of the way down the line… they fall like dominoes… it is contagion! The crowd starts to sing along with me and heaves to the rhythm… ‘We can be Heroes for ever and ever… What d’you say?’

Looking into the eyes of my fellow immigrant I am stuck by the dignity… for a brief moment I understand that we are the same… we have all come from the same place… we are all going to the same place. There is a divine simplicity to this thought and again I surrender to peace.

I am abruptly struck, for a second time today, this time on the back of the head by the trampling hords scurrying to obtain their tickets as the doors to the station are opened. I try to pull myself to my feet but am suppressed to the ground by the crowd.

The silence is eerie. I am alone. The queue has been swallowed by the station. There are no tickets left today. Punishment comes in many guises.

I will come back tomorrow.

Beaverboosh

17 comments:

itelli said...

Aahhh... Pity... My money was on the post ending with "Glory glory Hallelujah"...

p.s. U write like an Irish (been lurking for a while, not basing it on this post only) which is why i leave ur posts for the mornings. I make sure i leave home with a smile on my face.

Zhu said...

Oh, that so reminds me of queuing in Paris at the Canadian embassy! Although I was singing "Oh Canada", ya know, trying my best to get in...

Hope you make it next time. You don't want to come back to Canada, trust me. Almost 5 meters of snow in Ottawa is... a lot.

ian in hamburg said...

Your bureaucratic immigrant woes echo mine before I got my open-ended visa. I thought it only happened in Germany...

daisyfae said...

during one year living in Washington, DC, my morning walk to the office took me past the immigraiton queue. i occasionally made eye contact - appreciating their willingness to suffer indignities just to stay in my country, acknowledging my immigrant roots...

never being there when the doors finally opened? i suspect it was a "Who concert", festival seating, mad rush to the doors...

daisyfae said...

and by the way, maybe you need to re-work the playlist?

how about "Born to Run", "We will rock you" and "We're not gonna take it" for starters?

nursemyra said...

oh god that reminds me of the immigration queues in sydney. only our weather is better...

Johnada said...

Only in Canada on a work permit, so I don't know the tales of permanent residents. I do know that in order to get OHIP, I need to get a new type of Work Permit. The people at Immigration Canada insist I don't, even though Ontario insists that I do. Makes me sing "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" - though when I sing out loud while queueing I generally get punched. My voice must not be as angelic as yours . . .

OSLO said...

This brings a tear to my eye - as did my own tardiness in queuing up this year which resulted in a fine. Still at least I'm in Baerum where there seems to be far fewer of us - for which the Politi are now only opening up the immigrant queue three days a week.
By the way - what do you think to 'write like an Irish' means?

upset waitress said...

Oslo.....authoring while drunk?

Uncle Keith said...

An undercover snatch raid has a completely different meaning to me, but it is nice to see that regardless of where, in the world, you are, bureaucracy is the enemy of humanity.

itelli said...

Oslo, It means that he writes a bit like u, when u r in the mood (I remember ur post about going back to Ireland with the family). U have quite a particular sense of humour u Irish people, that I really like. I think it's genetic - u inherit it probably.

Sorry if I offended anyone.

Gary said...

Dude, that was good. Just the thing for a miserable, rainy Hong Kong morning!

kyknoord said...

It seems the soul-eating creaking bureaucratic monolith is an international phenomenon. That reminds me, I need to renew my drivers license. Actually, it would probably be a lot easier to just kill myself.

nursemyra said...

just fake it kyknoord. the licence, not the killing yourself part.

Jonny said...

Hey dude!

Home Affairs seems to consistantly suck wherever you go! Funny timing, coz I am about to plead my case with the SA authorities right now...

I was kicked out of Home Affairs when I wanted to renew my temporary permit, since I had already applied for a permanent residence permit. Now they have declared me an illegal alien, give me a fat fine and kick me out of the country...

I know I will suffer in the heat and the smells for hours today... I am only angry with myself right now that I did not do any of your preparations that in retrospect seems like such a obvious, fundamental and crucial part!! I'm really a sorry excuse of an expat!!! My deepest apologies to fellow expats and the almighty expat God!

beaverboosh said...

Itteli – may you lurk and smile forever. We Canadians have a little bit of everything in us. In my case, it is Franco/Celtic, Anlgo-Saxon/Teutonic. I am a cheese eating, stout drinking, libertarian obsessed with design quality.

zhu – Bless, singing oh Canada, and then getting all that snow. The immigration gods have looked after you!

ian – It is an international phenomenon, see Kyknoord! I think it is universal, I bet if you showed up at the visa office on Alpha Centauri, it would be no different!

daisyfae – thankfully not like Cincinnati. Playlist recs noted and will be updated! Also added “Refugee”.

nm – I shall come to Sydney to renew my Norwegian visa… throw another shrimp on the barbey!

johnada – it’s all about projection… I had an angelic voice until by balls dropped, it’s more Barry White now and no one fucks with me!

oslo – long live Bærum! Re: Irish, Itelli has cleared this up but I believe upsetwaitress is on to something!

uw – driving, going to work, looking after my friends kids, handling toxic chemicals, animal husbandry ok… but I am always sober when I blog!

uncle keith – I suspect you do not need FFL training for your snatch raids… damn… damn bureaucracy the new enemy!

Itelli – I cannot think of a better way to insult Joanna (Oslo), she is a professional writer, I am a professional wanker!

gary – it is part of my global smiling conspiracy. Help keep it going through these economically bleak times!

kyknoord – no, it would actually be easier to kill someone at the license office… but that is not very brotherly… maybe you should use public transportation!

nm – good advice. I have met a lot of nurses that are really good at faking it!

jonny – you are a fucking disgrace to expats man… get back home immediately!

azahar said...

I only have to renew my 'permanent' residency card every five years now. I'm hoping this means less rigamarole (will find out in January). Another good reason for having bought an iPod recently.

Why are immigration offices always so incredibly understaffed?