WELCOME TO THE UK

By Misty Corrales

When I was 15, I flew to England to join my parents who were already there. My dad was stationed at RAF Greenham Common.

You know those little immigration cards you have to fill out? It asked why I was coming to England and I said I was moving there. (Well…I *was*!)

It was my first international flight, and I was doing it unchaperoned — Dad had moved in August, my mom had gone over in March, and this was June. My parents didn’t want me moving in the middle of a school year when they knew I was going to be going to a boarding school–so they had sent me to live with my grandparents that year. I moved to England after my Freshman year.

 

So, they had arranged for Braniff to provide me an escort through immigration as this was an international flight and I was 15. The *ONE* time I had flown alone and these damned airlines didn’t try to chaperone me! (I’d flown a few times alone after the age of 12 and they were always trying to chaperone me off the flight. International, you’re supposed to have a chaperone until the age of 16, domestic is 12). So anyway, I ask about the chaperone, and these idiots say that I’m too old. I’m not inclined to argue. I know this nonsense — and yes, it is my first passport stamp, but seriously, how hard should it be to follow the terminal?

 

This was just the start of a very horrible airport experience — to the point that I will return to England but I will *NEVER SET FOOT* at Heathrow Airport again. PERIOD.

 

So, I get up to the counter and hand over my yellow card and my passport and my military orders. The lady looks at me, tells me to take a seat (and points), then she takes ALL of my papers and leaves.

 

The area completely empties of everyone on my flight. She does not return.

 

Another flight comes through and is processed. I am still there.

 

I consider stowing away on the next flight to the US, but I know I don’t have a flipping passport.

 

They decided I was a runaway trying to come to England from the States. (yeah…. because the USAF is in the practice of issuing orders to runaways. These were *MY* orders…specifically in my name.) I have told them that my parents are meeting me — so they are paging my parents up in the immigration area.

 

Meanwhile, down in baggage claim, my dad has already loaded my suitcases in the car, my mother is going absolutely bat shit, they’ve called my grandparents and confirmed that I got on the plane (though my grandparents would have had plenty of time to let my parents know long before my flight arrived.)

 

Finally, some random guy pops his head through a door near me and says “Are you Melissa Grinstead?” I said I was. He disappears — no explanation.

 

About 10 minutes later, my parents and the immigration witch return with my papers.

 

They won’t let me in on MY orders alone. Fortunately, my mother had brought her passport with her to the airport, or my dad would have had to drive the two hours back to the house, get her passport, and then drive back to Heathrow before they’d have let me out.

 

My passport stamp reflects that I arrived in England in March…. despite my June arrival, because they stamped it to match my mom’s.

(And yeah, this incident was reported to the base….so that future families would know to contact immigration at arrival to let them know they had a minor dependent arriving and they needed to meet them there — and they knew to bring their passport with them.)

 

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