Running to stand still

"How time flies when you have been thrown to the wolves." Vernon thought.

“How time flies when you have been thrown to the wolves.” Vernon thought.

Section 127 is in bureaucratic purgatory

Vernon crossed the road cross. There must be a steady supply of unfortunates to keep a copying business going around here he thought, and so there was. He got the documents photocopied at Imran’s business supplies and returned breathless to the counter, easing himself back to the booth’s glass window with more tenacity than tact.

Looking at his documents reluctantly, the woman said, “That will be £30.”

“No,” Vernon ventured to say, correcting her, “No, actually I want a Transit Visa, short stay, that’s why I’ve written Transit on the form. Here is £8 to pay for the visa.”

‘Then you have come to the wrong counter” she replied dismissively.

Pointing vaguely to the mass of humanity behind him she said to Vernon, “Go there.” And to the mass of humanity, “Next.”

The influx of new applicants had not diminished and the air of resigned disquiet in the room had not lifted. Vernon quickly joined the end of the new line and waited impatiently for thirty minutes. He shared frustrated glances and occasional commiserations with other applicants. When he eventually got to the front of the queue his papers were snatched abruptly by a small officious looking man who then withdrew behind a glass door and commenced an apparently unrelated conversation with two colleagues. The room was getting hot and he had not eaten.

After another forty minutes the man reappeared and called him forward barring his way abruptly when he mistook this as a signal to pass through the door to the holy of holies beyond.

“This” the man declared eloquently, “no good. This wrong visa, your stay more than 72 hours. Not Transit visa. Pay £30.”

“No” insisted Vernon, I’m arriving at this time, here, and leaving here look and that is clearly less than 72 hours.”

Vernon figured he would be going from counter to counter until the cows came home.

Vernon figured he would be going from counter to counter until the cows came home.

He wondered gloomily if different time zones had different lengths of time measurement. The officious man took his application and consulted his two colleagues who were still in discussion. Another 30 minutes elapsed and the man reappeared. “Here” he said, “go there and pay.” Vernon’s gaze followed the direction of his stabbing finger. He was indicating the particular counter Vernon had begun at. “So I can apply… and pay… and settle this?” Vernon dared to ask.

“Yes, Transit Visa, Pay there” Vernon battled his way through a crowd of shiny students, threadbare paan-chewing business men, wild troglodyte new age travellers, leather –clad couriers for fast-track visa application companies and the extended Punjabi family who were struggling to placate their tetchy offspring.

Returning again to his starting point after two hours and forty minutes he resigned himself to more interrogation.

“I have approval to submit this application.” Vernon said. “It’s for a Transit Visa; £8” Pulling himself up assertively to his five foot five, he handed over a £20 note and waited.

“How long is your stay?” the cashier asked taking his money reluctantly as if it were a soiled nappy.

If they closed before he was done Vernon knew he would call the whole thing off.

If they closed before he was done Vernon knew he would call the whole thing off.

“Less than 72 hours” said Vernon, losing the will to live, but holding on nevertheless by instinct rather than choice.

The woman subjected his banknote to intense and resentful scrutiny, looking closely at the silver strip and said, “We are not taking £20 notes.”

See the whole tale and nothing but the tale on The Novel page.

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