What do you do?
So I won’t call it “profiling”. Instead let’s call it “random sampling”.
It was after the passport check by the airline staff and on the way to board the flight. There were 3 airport security officers (a lady and 2 men) standing along the “corridor”. Just as I was about to walk past, one of the men stepped forward and asked for my passport which I handed over (there was some almost unspoken communication between them to pull me to the side – I could see it though – more like some short words between them to “nail that one”). He then gestured for me to step to the side while flipping through it (looking at my VISAs)
“Hi, what was the purpose of your visit to the UK”
“How much currency are you leaving with”
“About 8 pounds”
“So you spent it all (attempt to “lighten” the tone of the conversation)”
“What kind of business are you into back home?”
“Do you have any other currency with you?”
“Like how much?”
“About a 1,000.”
“Thanks. Have a safe trip.”
I hope I have satisfied the Home Office as to my suitability to be allowed back in in the future :-). Now back to that profiling bit:
I suspect it was the way I looked. Black form-fitted formal shirt – tucked out, a pair of dark glasses on top of my head (not a fashion statement, the darn thing is not fold-able, so putting it “on” my head is a way to keep it safe and unbroken), only an obviously under-full (no word like that) black computer bag (see below for more details on Nigerians and luggage). Hmm. Did I resemble a “Yahoo! Yahoo!”?
Maybe. But I am not.
So I will be back 🙂
And if you look back in time on this blog, you will see my first encounter which is even more hilarious (some people won’t find it funny – but my advise is that piece of advice going round about how to live life – don’t take yourself too seriously – otherwise you may needlessly burst an artery because you feel slighted by the fact that they are asking you “certain” questions. See “http://illumination2.wordpress.com/2008/03/12/crank-dat-naija-boy/” (Note: the first couple of paragraphs is not meant to be racist – just pointing a fact out – probably should edit it out but it was written so long ago. You should read it 🙂
Now that I hope I have rubbed the Home Office right, how about that 10-year VISA next time?
How about it? 🙂
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Talking about luggage sizes. There was an announcement on the public address system that luggage will be checked for size and weight at the boarding gate, and oversized ones will be taken away and stowed on behalf of the owners who should ensure no valuables or fragile things are in there – I don’t blame them – it is the way my country people “pack” when they are travelling “home” (And by the time we actually boarded the plain, one of those luggage trolleys used by the airline was full of over-sized luggage parted sometimes almost forcefully from their reluctant owners 🙂
I sat next to a middle-aged woman while waiting to board. She was on the phone with someone. “You see I always watch what I buy, I never have overload. But it was Isaac, if you see all the shirts he packed and packed. Heavy heavy shirts for his children. Now I had to pay overload. I paid 84 pounds. I only had 7 pounds. So I had to go and change dollars to pounds. (I think the other party asked about someone who should have been there with her and possibly paid for charges)
“I didn’t see him/her until after I had paid. He will give me back my money.”
Then there was a lady that sat across from me while waiting to board. she had a little girl with her that was probably about 9 or so years. She said the daughter was eager to go to Nigeria (having never been there). She herself has not been to Nigeria since she left some 10 years ago. Flew in from Belgium the previous night and had to spend the night in the airport since the connecting flight to Lagos was at 12:55PM “today.”
She said she had called ahead and arranged for her younger sister’s hubby to pick up some “relations” she met abroad who was coming in to Nigeria (she wanted her arrival to be a shocker to them). They must have got the time wrong because it appears they went to the airport at 7AM in the morning rather than 7PM in the evening when our flight was supposed to arrive. They called her that the “relation” hadn’t made contact with them – so she corrected the time and they would be waiting for the “relation” in the evening.
On arrival in Lagos, usual wait for the luggage to “arrive.”
I finally got my two bags on the trolley and headed for the exist. The immigration officers were indicating from afar that I should “pull over”in their direction.
“Hello sir. Can I have your passport.”
I rummaged for it in my computer bag and handed it over.
“Where are you coming from sir”
“Do you live there?”
“No. I am based here in Lagos.”
“What do you do?”
All the while he was looking through the passport.
“Ah! You are even Yoruba.” (Classic attempt to play the tribal card.)
“Ewo le jeku bo fun wa” (What did you chop remain for us from your trip.”
“Oju Olorun ni gbogbo wa nwo.” (We are all seeking the face of God – I think I said it in English rather than Yoruba. Though I believe I learnt it is disrespectful to answer someone in an alternate language than they addressed you with if you can actually speak that language very well – not sure where I heard it – on the other hand, it is quite an effective way to prevent their attempt to “form familiarity” (like a particular “friend”would say) with you.
“OK. Safe journey.”
Turned left and headed for the exit passing in front of another group of uniformed people.
A lady among them told me to stop.
“But they have just checked me over there.”
“That is Immigration. This is Customs.” Pointing to her uniform (Grey as opposed to the migration Yellowish-brown).
“Can I see what is in the bag.” She pointed to the bigger one which was lowest of the two bags on the trolley. Which meant I had to drop the smaller one, then open the combination lock on the bag. I think it is psychology. Probably expect one to hide anything illegal in the lower bag hoping they will just search the upper one. She dug in her hand and had a proper extensive rummage through the bag.
“All these are yours?” (I guess possibly wondering if they are for resale)
“Yes. If you check the size, you will notice they are more or less the same.”
“Is it the same thing in the other bag?”
“OK. You can go.”
Finally out through the inner exit.
Then stopped by the tag checker.
I handed over the boarding pass with the tags stuck to the back.
“Welcome sir. Happy New Year. what do you have for your boys on duty.”
I smiled and said something like “Sorry. Not this time.”
“It is well.” he answered, giving me back the boarding pass.
Finally, I was outside the terminal with the sideways questions about “whether I needed a taxi.”
I usually answered “No” or shook my head (I think it is impolite not to answer – they are just trying to make ends meet just like the rest of us).
And finally 🙂
Next day, I decided to divest myself of the mini-jungle on my head. So I made my way to my barber’s shop.
He was cutting a middle-aged gentleman’s hair when I got there so I waited.
Afterwards, the man got up ever so gingerly.
“It is this my knee. I went to Lekki yesterday to run and I must have damaged something.”
“I guess it is old age.” He said. He smiled and I smiled back.
“The pain seems to move around your body. Today it is your knee. Tomorrow it is your waist. If I am feeling like this, I think about my 84-year old mother and wonder how she copes.”
I wanted to tell him that he may be amazed that the mum may not feel much worse than he is feeling – the “Oldies” were more active physically all through their lives that “us” couch an comfort potatoes (from car AC to office AC to house AC to club AC – almost no sweating, walking or physical exertions. The househelp is there to do everything from cooking to taking care of the children and their clothing). The “Oldies” didn’t wait until middle-age to start thinking about exercising (in order to stick around longer to enjoy “your money” – it was part and parcel of their way of life – for some of them anyway – and yes, they still had a good time during their youth – they partied just as well as people do nowadays – but rather than just sit with beer bellies guzzling “spirits” as men do now, they “guzzled” the spirit but danced it away as well 🙂
But I didn’t say anything. I just smiled.
After he left, the barber commented:
“Nice guy. You should know him. He is the “relation” of “name-withheld” on your street.”
I commented that he looked familiar.
Then the barber told me the following story.
The man that had just left just returned from “location-withheld”. He called the barber to come to his “relation’s” house to come and cut his hair. The barber told him that he has been banned from coming to the house. Why?
So he says he had an arrangement with the master of the house to come first thing at 7AM every Monday to come and cut his hair. He would leave his house (on the very far side of Lagos) about 4:30AM and make it to this gentleman’s house well before 7AM. The man won’t show up until 8 or 8:30AM.
On one of thos trips he arrive 5 minutes after 7AM. It appears for once, the man was waiting for him, so he was “late.”
The man didn’t say anything, but he cut his hair. Afterwards, the man asked him “How much do you charge in your shop for haircuts?”
“N200, sometimes N300.”
“On your way out go to the Security man and ask him to give you N300.”
So he went to the security post but the guard wasn’t there, so he left – he wasn’t particularly happy about the money anyway.
Next Monday, he cut the man’s hair again. Afterwards, the man asked “Did you collect the N300 last week?”
“No Sir. The security man wasn’t there when I was left.”
“OK. Go now and collect N300 for the haircut.”
I think the barber then “vexed” and left without collecting the money.
So he was banned from ever setting foot in the compound again.
So that was the reason why the gentleman had to come to his shop.
Something the gentleman said just before leaving may or may not lend weight to the truthfulness of the story. He asked a couple of times if he could drop the barber off somewhere that would be easy for him to get a bus home. I learn’t from the barber that the reason the man asked was that he was already packed up and ready to go with a neighbor offering him lift part of the way home when the gentleman had called to say he needed a haircut, so I guess he felt partly responsible for the barber missing the free ride. The barber got N1000 for his troubles. Being my first visit of the year, I paid half of that as well 🙂