I’ve never been in trouble all my life. Well, that’s not strictly true. I was practically roasted alive when I was about five, when I ignored my mum’s declaration that I couldn’t buy a Screwball from the ice cream van while she and my sister were at the house of one of her friends. How she found out, I will never know. Although, in retrospect, it was possibly an error to buy one for my sister as well as myself, and take it around to the house she and I my mum were at.
Given that I had fallen at the first hurdle in my bid to be a criminal mastermind, my reluctance to clash with any kind of authority was possibly not surprising. I was never put into detention even once at school, something which my equally pious schoolfriends The Bean Counter and Broadsheet Benny can’t claim, to my knowledge. I’ve never had my driving license endorsed in the 17 years since I took my test, although admittedly that might have something to do with not having driven for the last twelve years or so. And I’m not sure I’ve ever been into a police station, let alone been under suspicion by one or more of its occupants.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no halo. I’ve had my fair share of questionable behaviour, and I’m not in line for the sainthood any time soon. But when it comes to officialdom, I firmly toe the line. When The Special One made a joke on my visa application, I made her write it out again. I get unnerved when she fills out a form in sentence case when it specifically asks for block capitals. And if the Inland Revenue ask for me to return a form by a certain date, you can be damn sure they’ll have at least three days before the deadline.
Given this goody-two-shoes approach to life, it’s hardly surprising that I still get a little bit nervous whenever I come into the US and have to go through immigration. Even though I’ve entered the country around 60 times in the last ten years, I guess I still figure they’re somehow inexplicably going to link me to a elite band of Welsh nationalist warriors attempting to inflict leeks and daffodils on a hirtherto unsuspecting American public.
Sadly though, it appears that my respect for the law and its officials isn’t matched by immigration officials themselves.
Last weekend, I nervously approached the immigration desk and meekly handed over my documentation. Immigration officers aren’t employed for their chat, but every fifteenth journey or so, you get someone who is determined to show that they’re not all humourless robots with masochistic tendencies.
And so it was with ‘Tony’. Having extracted from me that I’m a music fan, he proceeded to question me at length on my views on digital music, presumably to the annoyance of the 252 other passengers waiting behind me for one of the two immigration officials set aside for non-Americans.
Having said that I buy music from iTunes but still love the physical product, Tony told me that he only buys music digitally these days. He used to get all his music from Limewire and Kazaa, apparently, but stopped using them a couple of years ago.
“You realised that those sites were illegal?” I said.
His response? “Why would I care if they were illegal? I stopped because I got some viruses on my computer. I couldn’t care less that it’s illegal.”
The illusion is shattered. I may go out and rob a bank later.