Run for the Border

trains, planes and automobiles

I’m a fairly worldly guy.  I’ve been around a quite a bit.  I’ve dealt with immigration services of a more than a dozen countries.  I understand about visas and customs and what most countries do and don’t let you do within their borders, and what happens when you decide to go ahead and do those things anyway.  Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m not an idiot when it comes to this stuff.  I’m not an international immigration lawyer, but I know enough.

Or I thought I did.

The Taipei office of my company provided me with my Chinese Visa in November.  The office manager, a very grim woman who’s been working for the company since I was still a virgin, handed me my passport one day and informed me, “You have a 6 month, mulit-entry visa”.   I said ‘thanks’ and put my passport in my backpack without bothering to glance at it.

So, fast forward two months.  I’m in China.  I’m going between Ningbo and Shanghai pretty often.  Every time I check into a hotel, they ask me how long I’m staying and they look at my Visa, which is neatly pasted in my passport, making sure they aren’t harboring some illegal visa over-stayer.

Sunday, before last, I check out of my hotel in Ningbo around noon, hop on a bus and head to Shanghail.  I arrive at my hotel there around 4:00 pm.  I go to check in and tell them I want to stay until Dec 22nd.  The clerk looks at my visa, then the stamp with my entry date, then my visa, then my stamp.  Then he looks at me with this nervous smile on his face.

“Um.  You can’t check in”

“What do you mean I can’t check in?”

“Visa?”

“So?”

“Your visa is 30 day.”

“No00…My visa is a 6-month visa.”

“But, 30 day.  Look.”

I look, and there, clear as day, right for me to see if I’d ever bothered to even glance at the fucking thing, it says “durations of each stay:  30  days after entry”.

“Um…so, how many days to I have left.”

Counting on his fingers. “No0o.”

“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“Today 30.”

It sinks in that I have to be out of the country in 8 hrs or less.

“Oh fuck.”

The guy smiles a bit too brightly, “Yes!”

And I swear to christ, that is exactly how that conversation went.

So, I call my manager, who tells me to check my ticket to Taiwan, b/c maybe I’ll just head back that day instead of one and a half weeks later.  I’m pretty thrilled at this, but 5 min later she nixes the idea and tells me to get to the airport and get a ticket to Shenzhen, which is right across the border from Hong Kong.  By this time, It’s about 4:40pm.

I hop my ass in a cab and tell him I need to get to the airport fast.  I should have let the guy drive slow, because when I DID get to the airport, they told me I couldn’t get on a plane until 8:10pm, which would put me in Shenzhen at about 10:40.

Now, several things can happen if you over-stay your visa.  It all just depends on the mood of the border patrol.  Most common thing in most countries, for a first offense, if it’s just a day or two, is a stern talking to and signing a piece of paper saying you’ll never ever ever ever ever do it again.  But I’ve met people who were banned from the host country, straight off, or had to pay an absorbent fee, or did not pass go and went directly to jail for a few sweet days until getting kicked permanently out of the country.  Now…for a second offense, it’s almost always straight to a holding cell and deportation, never to come back again.  All of the above are bad for someone who is just starting a new job in that country they are a guest in.  It’s not something that is going to stroke the belly of my job security.

But, I’m supposed to be taking off at 8:10, in a cab at 10:50 and at the Hong Kong border by 11:40, with plenty of time to stroll across before my visa expires.  Except we sit on the runway until 8:35, and I’m thinking, “There’s just no fucking way I’m getting across the boarder before midnight.”

Maybe they’ll listen to my story and give me a break and just stamp me through.  Maybe not.

I land at 11:00.  It’s about 50 minutes to the border and my ass doesn’t settle into the backseat of a taxi until 11:15.  I tell him I need to be in Hong Kong by midnight or I’m in big BIG trouble and the guy just gives me a grunt and goes.  I mean he GOES.  Fast.

A reasonable brain would tell you that you’re definitely not going to your destination on-time if you’re lying on the side of the road in bloody clumps.  A reasonable brain would tell the driver to slow down.  But a desperate brain is full of hope.  Because sure, we might crash going 100 mph+ down the highway.  But we might not.  We might fucking make it.  So, I flipped on the passenger light, opened the book I had brought with me and tried to project myself far far away from where I was.

I walked through those customs at 11:54pm with 6 whole minutes to spare.  And I got to tell you, I felt fantastic.  I positively tingled with life.  Even though I hadn’t actually done anything but sit on my fat ass and tap my foot, I felt like giving the finger to whatever gods might be out there, as if I’d just moved a mountain or two just to fart in their faces.

It is not something I would want to do every day but it was, by-far, the most fun I’d had in a long time.

A picture of my watch seconds after passing immigration into Hong Kong.

 

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Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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