“Hey look at this guy,” one armed policeman said to the other, “Look how … how WHITE he is! White as a freshly seized haul of cocaine. White as a transit van that’s up to no good. And look at his weedy frame and his gormless looking face. He looks like the kind of sort who’s never even raised his voice let alone his hand; the kind whose only religious fanaticism is to the Eurovision Song Contest. Do you realise something other Policeman – I mean, John – do you realise … if we stop and search this guy with all his whiteness, we can get away with stopping 15 Muslims – or 78 black guys – before anyone can accuse us of discriminating?”
I was oblivious to the demographic calculations being made by the armed police at Oxford Circus station, as I was too busy listening to my Eurovision soundtrack on my headphones. And I hadn’t yet cottoned on to the fact that since my skin was as whiter-than-white as my criminal record, I was a favourite target of the authorities. This was despite being stopped and searched a disproportionate number of times by the police already on many occasions and in many places. I assumed it was because my rucksack was black? Or because my name sounds like Allah.
(That of course hadn’t stopped me from using this as an excuse every single day when I was late for work. “Ransacked by the pigs again Alan?” “Yeap, racist bastards!”)
They stopped me with their guns.
I say that, they actually stopped me verbally, it was only when I saw they had holsters with guns that I listened to them and actually stopped.
I quickly checked the officer’s uniform for signs of his rank so I could impress him by addressing him correctly. Unfortunately I know nothing of police ranks and their symbols, so I just said “Yes … Officer?”
“We’re doing routine searches at this station. Can we take a quick look in your bag please?”
Oh OK that’s it is it. Just because I’m white they automatically assume I’m a demographic box-ticker. I get it. “Routine searches” – the only routine is I get stopped routinely every time I leave the house.
“You are very pale, sir, would you at all mind if we record you as 4 white people?”
OK they didn’t actually say that bit.
I handed over my bag, confident of course I was no wrongdoer, but something was nagging in my mind. I couldn’t place why, actually whereas my bag is usually full of consumer electronics I needlessly ferry to and from work every day (as got me into trouble in this post), on this day it was pretty empty. Just a couple of random bits and pieces and the book I was reading on the trai….. oh my dear Lord Fuckingham. The book.
The policeman was lifting it out of my bag. THE GUNPOWDER PLOT by Alan Haynes. My read of the moment. Yes, I was being stopped by two armed policeman in one of London’s busiest Tube stations carrying a book about a man who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He gave me a suspicious look; the other one sniggered. Hmmm, good cop bad cop, I’d seen this ploy on the television.
I panicked and very nearly shat myself as the officer delved further into my bag for incriminating evidence. Jailtime, interrogation, water-boarding all crossed my mind, as he pulled out…
They weren’t going to break me, “What’s so unusual? He’s a mouse in a SingStar jacket. He was home with me over the weekend, he’s back at work today. The book’s his by the way.”
There were some moments of tension, as my future was to be decided. Were me and Mousy headed for Guantanamo Bay – which it turns out Mousy was already dressed for. Or would they consider that the kind of hardened radicalised extremist who would want to blow up Parliament wouldn’t be the kind of guy who carries a toy mouse around in his bag, and who is now nearly crying at having been discovered with it in public.
I got away with it, they replaced my things in my bag, zipped it up and asked me if I wanted a record of my search. Usually I take this and present it to my boss as evidence that I am 25 minutes late for work because of a stop and search that took 2.5 minutes. But this time I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. “That’s OK officers, me and Mousy need to get to work now,” I said, feigning mental illness.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot
Blah blah blah reason, blah blah blah treason
Natalie Portman’s quite hot