This happened a long time ago — 2006, to be exact — and I actually rarely think about it, so it’s not something that has been traumatic or anything like that. When I do remember it, though, it seems a bit unfair, to say the least. The plus side is that it makes a good travel story, something I can tell my grandkids someday (and maybe embellish! I shall tell them I was handcuffed and made to drink Veritaserum).
Here’s the real story:
A friend and I were traveling to Singapore to visit another friend. It was my first time to travel without my family, and I’d paid for the plane tickets myself (another first), so I was rather excited about the trip. The flight went off without a hitch, but when we arrived in Singapore and cleared Immigration (or tried to), we were asked to step aside and follow the Immigration officer.
Without explanation, we were led to a room where a few other travelers were already seated. Our fingerprints were taken; we were asked a few questions (though nothing so dramatic as being slapped in the face and accused of being a spy. Now that would have been a capital travel story). After an hour or so, we were told we were free to go.
Why were we detained in the first place? I don’t know. They never told us. Best I can figure out, we were both young, single, female, and Filipina — apparently, a “red flag” combination. Never mind that we had return tickets. (This was before the era of budget airlines and airfare wasn’t cheap, so if we were planning to stay illegally in Singapore, we’d hardly splurge on a ticket back home that we had no plans of using, would we?) Never mind that my friend had a good, stable job back home; never mind that I was in the middle of med school, and that I’d traveled to other countries (including Singapore) before. We just happened to fit a certain profile.
I realize that countries have a right — a duty, even — to protect their own interests, and part of that is making sure that the people who enter their territory are who they say they are and will only be doing what they say they will be doing. I understand the need to take care of one’s own people first. Still, on a personal level, there’s something inherently traumatic about being profiled, about being made to prove one’s innocence. How do you prove the absence of guilt? In a way, I wish there was such a thing as Veritaserum, so innocent travelers such as myself can just drink the necessary dose, answer the necessary questions, and go our merry way.
Oh, well. I shall tell my grandchildren I was handcuffed and made to drink Veritaserum, and when I never changed my story after being asked the same question 409 times, I was led to a secret basement where a guy in a suit stepped out of the shadows and said:
Beat that for a good travel yarn. 😉
The One Where I Was Detained and Fingerprinted Upon Arrival in Singapore
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