Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When Caroline Went To Wales, And When It Wouldn't Let Her Leave

One of the few advantages of having friends perpetually moving to other countries is that, occasionally, you get to visit them. Sure, you end up harbouring major abandonment issues that will later fester into a deep-seeded mistrust of human relationships, but you get a couple of nice long weekends out of it, so what the hell.

This is exactly how I ended up spending the weekend in Wales, visiting my friend and ex-housemate Ryan. Or Swansea, to be more exact. Swansea is that special kind of seaside city where the seagulls are as big as cats and the cats are big enough to have methadrone addictions. And don't even get me started on the human methadrone addicts.

Despite this, it's a great city, and we have a great time. We tick all the Welsh-holiday boxes. We leave the house in shorts, only for the weather to quickly turn, we eat chips doused with gravy, we get drunk and we road-trip. We even go to Gavin & Stacey's house (which is in itself, it's own odd tale). As we depart for the 11 hour ferry back to Cork, we think we've done everything.

We were wrong. Because "everything" consists of something we hadn't counted on, which is a recreation of an episode of Banged Up Abroad.

This story requires a little backstory, which is always boring, so I'll try to keep it as brief as possible. Ryan is taking his car on the ferry, and because this is his last weekend of living in Swansea before he moves back to Cork with me. We spend the afternoon packing up his car, until we meet Ryan's college friends Michael Stack and Julia. I'm highlighting their names, because they will feature in this story again, and I don't want anyone getting confused. Michael Stack and Julia are taking the ferry with us, and Julia is putting some of her bags in Ryan's car. The three of us are foot passengers, so we leave Ryan to check in his car, while we go to the foot-passenger place.

The foot-passenger place is basically a warehouse with a couple of plastic chairs, a metal doorway, and a ticket kiosk. You wouldn't think it's a place that the Welsh government would be highly protective of, but you'd be wrong. They are very protective of it indeed.

The adventure begins when we approach the ticket kiosk, and Michael Stack informs the cuddly-looking Welsh ticket lady that his credit card was stolen the day before, but that he had his credit card details written down (neatly) and his passport to prove that he was indeed the person mentioned on the card.

There are two things I have learned about people in my years on this earth.

Number One: Never believe anyone when they tell you they're enjoying this "comfortable" silence.
Number Two: Never mistake a delightful accent for a delightful human being.

Welsh ticket lady was a perfect example of lesson number two. She had the joyful, lilting voice of someone you want to both drink with and be mothered by, but little do we realise that she was also a giant bitch. Welsh ticket lady was full of questions. Why was Michael Stack in Wales? And how long was Michael Stack in Wales for? If Michael Stack had his credit card stolen, why hadn't he cancelled the card? Michael Stack answered these questions as best he could, but if you've ever talked to security personnel, you'll know that they have an uncanny way of taking everything about your life and making it sound incredibly suspect.

Yeah, Lady Gaga knows all about it

After deciding she hated Michael Stack, she focused her flinty eyes on me. I felt bad for Michael Stack, but at the end of the day, it wasn't really my problem. I had a card on me, and so if worst came to worst, I could pay for both of us. I handed her my card with obedient aplomb, and a please-don't-hate-me-too smile.

"This is a laser card."

"I know."

"We don't take laser."

"But.. I've been using it all weekend."

"We don't take laser."

"But I used it in Topshop."

I don't get this woman. If my laser card can be used at the forefront of highstreet fashion, surely it can be used to get on a friggin' boat? I mean, that's basically like taking a shit on Kate Moss.

Welsh ticket lady is now so thoroughly unimpressed that she has come to a whole new decision, and that is that me and Michael Stack are hardened criminals who are in this together. We are just trying to convince her that this is not the case, when a security guard bursts through the door and seizes Julia, who has been sitting on a bench quietly this whole time.

Apparently, while we've been trying to prove ourselves innocent of credit card fraud, something more serious has been happening below deck. It turns out that in a routine search of Ryan's glovebox, the ferry security found a Sat Nav, some anti-freeze, and a glass pipe with the words AMSTERDAM embossed on the side.

So, in effect, the woman who suspects us of credit card fraud now believes us to be privy to an extensive drug plot. Great. But even worse, not too far away, Ryan is getting his car torn apart by five different security guards who believe that he is, in fact, a drug mule. There are two things my friend Ryan is thinking right now: Are they going to arrest me for having a souvenier pipe in my glovebox? But much more prominently, How much evidence do they need to give me a cavity search? Ryan quivers in terror, thinks about the impending assault on his rectum, and, according to him, gives the following statement.

"I don't have any drugs on me. I don't do drugs. I don't even smoke. I know it's illegal to do drugs, but this is drug paraphernalia. And, as far as I know, I think paraphernalia, like, drug paraphernalia, is legal. And that's all it is. It's only paraphernalia."

In case you can't tell, Ryan's special word that he was seeking divine refuge in was

What didn't help his - or any of our - case was the fact that he was carrying two locked suitcases belonging to our just-seized friend Julia, who were now ordering her to open her suitcase below deck. I wasn't there, because me and Michael Stack were still trying to win over Welsh ticket lady onto letting us on the boat, but in my head, they had a gun pointed to Julia's head while she tearfully unpacked her earthly possessions.

Me and Michael Stack eventually negotiated our precarious financial position, and Ryan and Julia eventually convinced ferry security that they weren't drug mules. Moreover, we eventually convinced everyone who worked for the ferry that collectively, we weren't the IRA. And after a thorough - and I do mean thorough - frisking, the searching through every last one of our belongings, and the triple checking of our passports, they let us go home.

Let me tell you, those forty shades of green never look greener after you've had four days worth of underwear layed out in front of you by a bald security guard in a luminous coat.

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