deportation from japan of the moment
this from a friend of mine ... a convicted felon in the US for the manufacture of methamphetamine (his girlfriend taught him how to make it for her, then called the DEA on him when they broke up) ... absolutely true and "just in."
"A funny thing happened on the way to Japan"
or how I was unceremoniously deported.
That's right kids. I can now add 'deported' to my resume. Unfortunately I only have myself to blame. I wear my criminal record like a badge of honor and one thing I know, pride will kick your ass. Here's the story:
So I fly the 10+ hours to Japan and arrive at about 11pm their time. I get in line and fill out the immigration card. Of course where it asks if I have ever been convicted of crime I proudly check the Yes box. Turns out, this was a bad move.
At the immigration desk, the woman is surprised to see this checked and asks if I meant to check it. She is sure it must be a mistake. I proudly tell her there is no mistake and she starts filling out a new form all in Japanese. I figure now I will get my interview.
I am then escorted to the waiting room with all the other undesirables. This cast consists of everything from some poor muslim guy, to two pakistanis trying to bring in some piece of medical equipment, so some beautiful young girl in a miniskirt that looks like a prostitute. She is crying wildly.
So I wait for my interview with a smile on my face. I am tired but I'm sure once I tell them about how old my crime is and how I turned myself in, it will all be okay. It's clear to me that they don't really know what to do with me. I'm getting the same reaction from them as when I turned myself into the cops all those years ago. There is a ton of activity, but they all seem to be avoiding me.
First interaction: they come to me -and in very broken English- show me that card and ask me if I checked yes for the criminal conviction. I tell them yes. They mull it over, and then tell me "Please wait" and wander off.
15 minutes passes...
Second interaction: they come to me with a form that looks like it came off an old mimeograph machine like from grade school.There are two lists, the top list is a list of crime types from theft to assault. The bottom list is a list of punishments from fine to >1 year in prison. They ask me to pick from the top list. I pick drug offense. They ask me to pick from the bottom list, but this is harder. The only choices are <1 year in prison or >1 year in prison. I didn't spend any time in prison. I try to explain house arrest. I describe the bracelet. They don't get it. "Please wait."
another 15 minutes...
Third interaction: A woman this time with better, but not great English. Now she wants to know what kind of drug. I write it down. She appears to have never heard of it. She asks about house arrest. I tell her I have to stay home. I can go to work and then I have to stay home. She looks at me like this is barbarism. She asks "no prison?" I say no that they trusted me. She smiles. She finally gets it. "Please wait."
another 30 minutes...
Fourth interaction: I am escorted into a little office with a speakerphone on the desk. The male officer has called someone to be a translator for me. She is a woman with really good English. He explains that no one with a conviction for drug offenses can enter the country. My request to enter has been denied and I will be deported. He tells me I can appeal. I ask how and he says it will take too long that I need to go home. He tells me that I may be able to enter at a future time by getting a visa from the Japanese consulate. He tells me that the next flight home is not for 24 hours. They will need to hold me until then. They have a room I can stay in. They will keep my passport.
I am escorted out of the little room where three young women are waiting. They work for United Airlines. It is now 1am. One of the women speaks really good english. She says she will need to take all of my cash. I give her about $150 in cash. She says I will be locked in a room for 24 hours so I will need some "foods". She will convert some of my cash to Yen and buy them for me. "Great" I say. In the mean time, I will go to security.
The one woman leaves and the other two escort me to security. There my bags are thoroughly searched and I am given a full and intimate pat down. I try to be very nice. They try to be very gruff. In the end, neither of us are very successful.
Once searched, I wait for the woman to return with my food. Now two men and the three women escort me to my "room"/cell. It is a very long walk through the airport and seems funny to have all 5 of them escorting me. The airport is silent and empty. It is an ominous walk. I am still carrying my bags. I picture working through the 24 hours, writing some code and writing up this story to send to all my friends. I have let my boss know via email that I didn't get in.
We get to the holding cell. You enter the first room and there is a guard shack with three guards in it. There is a big locking door next to the guard shack. They now explain that they will be keeping everything except the clothes I'm wearing. All electronics including computer, cell phone, tablets, and camera are taken. They keep my money. They keep my bags. I asked the woman who speaks good English "I get nothing for 24 hours?" She says that is correct. They will be back in 23 hours to escort me to my flight. The guard talks me through the big locked door and and down a hall where there are two "bedrooms." We enter one of them which is a small room with a sink, two small cots, and a small TV. One of the cots has a pillow and a blanket. Just outside the room there is a small bathroom with a toilet and a tiny sink. There are no towels anywhere. I do not get to keep my bathroom supplier. If you wash your hands, you have to dry them with toilet paper.
The guard puts me in the room and tells me to sleep. They will be back in 23 hours. He leaves. There is quiet. All the walls are white. There is a giant clock on the wall above the headboard of my cot. I sit. What the hell just happened? What's it going to be like to sit here for 24 hours. I look through the bags of food the woman bought me. They contain:
One bottle of water.
Two sandwich halves, individually wrapped.
Two triangle of rice wrapped in seaweed each about the size of large sandwich half.
One lunch box with chicken and rice.
I eat one of the rice triangles. There is something in the middle the color of salmon but not sure what it is. It's really mostly rice and I don't get much flavor from the thing in the middle. I drink a little water. I turn on TV. I get about 5 channels of Japanese TV. Everything is in Japanese and there appears to be nothing I can understand. Everything appears to be on the screen for seconds before changing to something else. Truly ADD TV. I try to find a travel channel or something but the closest I get is an episode of Arrow dubbed in Japanese. It's an old episode I have seen before. I turn off TV and lay down to go to sleep.
I wake up about two hours later hoping it's about 8 hours later. I now realize that the silence I felt when I first arrived was a dream. Now that I am awake I realize that once a minute the giant clock on the wall makes a sound like someone unlocking a deadbolt whenever it moves the minute hand. Which is actually nothing compare to the metal on metal screeching sound that something in the ceiling is making intermittently. It stops for long periods of up to 4 or 5 minutes. But then starts again. Like an elephant trying to escape its metal cage. I think I will never be able to go back to sleep now that I have heard that sound.
I eat a sandwich half, go pee, and then back to TV. I lay on my back and watch for a while. Suddenly I am sleepy and fall back asleep with the TV on. Apparently it helps mask the sound of the great beast in the ceiling.
Up again about 3 hours later. It's about 7am now. I start trying to figure out how many more hours I have left. I keep starting to get up to check my phone. Not possible. Another rice triangle. Some water. Pee. Lay on back watching TV. Fall asleep.
When I wake up the room is very light. Turns out the frosted window actually connects to the outside world. It's frosted almost to the top but there is about a foot at the top unfrosted where I can see blue sky and the moon. Suddenly I am sad. For selfish reasons of course. It's a nice day in Japan and I won't be seeing it. All my plans are dashed.
Being sad is remarkable in the fact that it feels so totally foreign. How long has it been since I've really been sad? Long enough that I am surprised by how it feels. What a charmed life I lead. I am suddenly happy because I am sad and it feels foreign.
Now it's day time and I feel more awake than before so I decide to give Japanese TV a real try. I watch what seems like a morning news show that has about 10 anchors. Each segment is presented by a different set of them. While the segment is going, a disc appears in the lower right of screen rotating through the faces of the other anchors reacting to the story. This is apparently quite a standard thing in Japanese TV. Seeing how others are enjoying the show while you are watching it.
At any given time it seems like there are about 5 to 20 things on the screen. Words and graphics some making video-game like sounds. It really appears to be more like playing Mario Bros than watching TV. Unfortunately the news stories are a series of short clips that I cannot follow. I watch almost the whole show. The commercials are so bizarre, they actually make me laugh out loud at times. Each commercial seems to be a maximum of about 15 seconds. Rapid fire TV to be sure. I watch about an hour of TV and decide to try sleeping again.
This time I sleep until 11. Yay! Lunch time! So I eat another rice thingy. And then I eat the last sandwich half. With only water to drink, I'm starting to get quite a nasty taste in my mouth. I can only imagine what my breath smells like. I have mastered going pee, then pulling out enough toilet paper to dry my hands, then wash my hands. Then dry them and through the paper in the toilet before flushing. Nailed it!
Back to the room. Only about 12 hours to go. Jesus. 12 hours. Can I sleep any more? I alternate between watching TV and sleeping until 7pm when I celebrate by eating my chicken dinner. The rice is great but the fried chicken is greasy and cold and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The starving prisoner image in my mind compels me to eat the whole thing which is ridiculous since I'm not starving and it tastes bad. But what the hell. I'm celebrating.
At 11pm the door unlocking sound is not the clock but the guard telling me to wake up and get ready. I can't believe I made it through 24 hours and quickly get my shoes on. I have been sleeping in my clothes for 24 hours and it shows. I'm certain that I smell bad and I am dreaming of the gum I know is in my bag.
I'm escorted back to the room with the guard shack. The same girls from United are there with a guy from United as well. They have my passport and money. They will give it to me when I am on the plane. I get all my electronics back and scramble to plug my phone into the charger as we walk to the gate. We walk through long empty hallways and then enter a small room where I once again have to go through security. We get on an elevator and head upstairs. When I exit the elevator the halls are filled with hundreds of people and I am kind of stunned. It feels really weird and almost daunting to enter the traffic. I walk with my entourage to the gate which takes about 15 minutes. I am dreaming of watching a movie on the plane. After all this I actually have the gall to wonder what seat I will be in. I hope it's a window seat. How quickly we forget our troubles.
We reach the gate and they have me sit in the waiting area. The flight is full and there are a lot of people there. At first the man tells me I will get on after group 2, but he is corrected by the women and he puts me on first. I get seat 36E. The center seat in the center aisle. The worst seat for me. I am ecstatic. I am going to sit down and watch movies in English and be home in 10 short hours. I write to my girlfriend that I have never been happier to be in a bad seat on an airplane.
So that's my little story. I got home and went to sleep and when I woke up it was normal day and I'd sort of forgotten the whole thing. How quickly we can forget our troubles. I will now try to file for a work visa and see if I can get back in in the future. A quick search of the internet shows that many people run into this and I was an arrogant fool to think it wouldn't be a problem. If I would have answered "No" to the all important question, they would have let me in without question. They have no way to check my record. What a moron I can be.