My girlfriend is many things. She is American, she is pansexual, she is a musician, she is mixed-race, and she loves anime, to name but a few. We met while she was studying here in Glasgow for her Masters in Popular Music Theory. Her name is Sabrina, and she’s known to the music world as Jupiter Star.
She usually has some problems travelling in and out of the United States because she has family from Iran and shares their Iranian surname (this puts her on the terror alert list, despite her and her family being no threat to national security whatsoever – but that’s a rant for another time).
However, she’s never had any trouble going in and out of the UK (besides our perpetual unpreparedness for snow and ice), until now. She arrived at Glasgow Airport last Wednesday and was held by security at International Arrivals for over an hour. You won’t believe why.
Being seated near the front of the plane, Sabrina was one of the very first people to arrive at the Customs desk. They asked her a few odd questions, like what I did for a living (I’m currently unemployed), the names and occupations of everyone she planned on visiting, and where she bought her plane tickets. Eventually, they decided she was holding up the line, so they told her to wait while they dealt with everyone else. Other people who’d been told to wait were dealt with far sooner than she was, and for actual serious visa issues, such as a woman who was trying to enter the country on a spousal visa despite since getting divorced.
Eventually, when everyone else had already been sent through the Arrivals gate to greet their friends and family, Sabrina was called forward by the customs officials. As always, she’d put down her profession as ‘Performer’ on her customs form. This had apparently rung alarm bells for the customs officials, because they then proceeded to question her about it. Over, and over, and over. As I’ve been told, the conversation went something like this:
“Are you going to be performing while you’re here?”
“I’m going to ask you again. Are you going to perform while you’re here?”
“No. I told you that before.”
“Are you sure? You aren’t planning on performing here?”
“No, even if I wanted to, all of my instruments are at home.”
“Yes, but you’re a vocalist. You don’t really need them, do you?”
“Actually, I do. It sounds crap when I sing alone. What’s going on?”
“We looked you up online. Jupiter Star is just you, right?”
“No, it’s me in collaboration with friends.”
“So how do I know you didn’t form this band while you were here before?”
“It was formed in 2001. It says everywhere on the Internet. And most of my collab people are in the States.”
“And what does this Rachel do, if she’s unemployed? Where did she work before?”
“At a casino and a call center.”
“And she’s a musician?”
“No, she’s a zoologist.”
“Ah, so she’s good at making animal noises then.”
“….” *shocked face*
“I’m going to ask you one more time, and don’t lie. Are you planning on performing while you’re in the country?”
“No! I was never planning on it!”
“I just have to ask because if you perform at all while you’re here, even at open mic nights or jam sessions, we will find out about it. We’ll check the CCTV feeds. If you’ve lied about not performing, you’ll be denied entrance to the country if you ever come back.”
“Do you have musician friends here?”
“Yes! But I’m not going to perform!!!”
“Even if they ask you, you’re not allowed.”
“I understand, I’m not going to–“
“Even if they’re playing at home, you can’t join in.”
*Aghast* “In a private residence?”
“No. And you can’t attend any of their shows where they might ask you to perform.”
(By this point, Sabrina was just beyond words. It took a lot of effort for her to ask the next question, as she was pretty terrified of what they’d say.)
“Can I attend other concerts?”
“DON’T TELL ME ABOUT THAT. You can’t attend anything where you might perform.”
“I WON’T BE PERFORMING. I just want to know if it’s okay if I go to see a band at Oran Mor or something while I’m here, to listen and enjoy like everyone else!”
*grudgingly* “…That would be fine. But if you perform–“
“Good. That goes for karaoke as well. You can go now.”
My reaction when she filled me in outside the Arrivals gate was pretty much, “WHAT. THE FUCK.” And wondering if we’d be taken seriously if we made a complaint. In retrospect, it made for a very amusing story to baffle people with while she was here. Luckily, she made it back out of the country without any hassle.
We still have no idea what the hell the “animal noises” thing was about.