Don’t Bring Water or Camera Batteries

Recently we had an interesting experience at the US Embassy in London.   We had to get some financial papers notarized and it had to be done at the embassy since we live abroad. Shouldn’t the embassy be used for emergencies? But my financial company was adamant and I followed their rules.

After waiting in line outside for roughly forty-five minutes it was our time to be screened to gain admittance inside the building.  In my bag I had camera batteries and a water bottle among other things.  But these were the only things that caused alarm.  First they noticed the water bottle and asked me to take a drink of my water.  I did, but no one watched me.  Why ask me to take a sip of the water and then not watch to see if I actually did?  Second they noticed I had batteries. In fact, someone shouted, “She has batteries!” I felt like a criminal. I had to take them out and put them in a plastic bag. Then they were screened separately. After my batteries proved to be batteries we had to put my camera and all electronics, including one phone and one iPOD into a plastic bag.  You are not allowed to bring any electronics into the building.  For cell phone addicts, you have been warned.   They give you a clip with a number on it and when you are done you turn it in to get your stuff back.  I’m not used to leaving my stuff with strangers. However there were two gentlemen outside with large guns so I didn’t think a robbery would happen anytime soon.  And I try not to argue with people who have guns—big guns.

Once inside the building we were given a number.  While waiting I looked around and was surprised by the amount of people.  And most of them had children.  The place was a zoo.  Kids running around, exhausted adults, and the employees didn’t seem overjoyed to be there. It was only ten in the morning.

After another hour or so our number was called.  They took our paperwork, and then asked us to go to the cashier to pay.  Then we had to wait some more for the notary.  While waiting a gentleman needed two witnesses for his signature so we added our John Hancock’s to his paperwork.  I don’t know what I was signing but if I was in a pinch I would hope two strangers would help me out.

Finally we got out of there after several hours.  Even though it took some time, the system went smoothly. I admire people who work in places like that and have to deal with so many different problems and people every day.  It would drive me batty.   And I hope I don’t have to go back for many months … maybe even years.  Never sounds even better.

Since they took my camera away I don’t have any pictures of my experience.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to take photos inside, however I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to bring it in at all. And after all of the hoopla about the batteries I felt uncomfortable snapping a photo while I was outside. I wanted to get out of Dodge before they started shouting, “She has batteries!” again. I’m not brave when around armed people.

The armed guards outside were intimidating, but nothing like this scene we encountered in Antigua, Guatemala. We hightailed it out of that neighborhood fast.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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51 Responses to Don’t Bring Water or Camera Batteries

  1. it happens just going to the courthouse in Windsor, Ontario–only no one seems to be armed

  2. Ah bureaucracy! Isn’t it wonderful….

  3. IsobelandCat says:

    Funnily enough, my friend was telling me yesterday about a battle with bureaucracy she had recently at the French embassy. Maybe they all follow the manual.

  4. Ah ha, I think I have just figured something out. Read your second paragraph again. Tee Hee!!

    • TBM says:

      I will miss you calling me a gentleman. That always gave me a chuckle. So few true gentlemen in the world I felt honored to be in that category.

      • Well, I must say you did an absolutely wonderful job of keeping me confused. One day I would think one way and then the next day the other way. If you must know, it was driving me crazy!! LOL Phew, I’m glad that’s over with :).

      • TBM says:

        Well dang, if I knew it was driving you crazy I wouldn’t have spilled the beans. Not that I was intentionally holding back the info. I guess I’m not one to talk too much about me. Maybe I should do a post about me to avoid some confusion. Or an about the blogger page. Now I’ll have to come up with some other mysteries for you to solve. Only fair, you cause me many head-scratching moments with your mystery photos. and I don’t believe this Friday’s will be easy. I fell for that once.

      • Did you realize that you spilled the beans? It always seemed that you were so careful never to attach a gender to any of your references in your posts. That’s why it became a challenge to me LOL!! And don’t worry, this week’s mystery photo will be hilarious and very “easy”.

      • TBM says:

        I didn’t know when I wrote it that it would be so revealing. I’ve never been mysterious and I’m pretty sure my shot at being a spy will forever be tainted now. Another career done before it even had a chance.

      • LOL!! I think you did a great job at being mysterious :).

      • TBM says:

        Maybe that was the key, I didn’t know I was. so if I want to be a spy, I can’t know I’m a spy. How do I collect a pay check though?

      • It will just “mysteriously” appear in your bank account of course 😃.

      • TBM says:

        I know I’m not the smartest, and you prove that every Friday, but I think I would notice money in my account and ask questions. That’s when the trouble will start.

  5. The amusing part here is right at the begining. I assume your financial company is based in the USA. England is our oldest and best ally. They basically invented the financial system the world still uses but can’t trust a Bristish notary…nope. They could have a nefarious scheme going.

    • TBM says:

      Yes it is a US company and if I still lived in the US a notary at any bank in the US would have sufficed. That’s what made me angry. I don’t think Embassies and their staff should have to deal with mundane tasks. I want them helping tourists or residents who really need help. I felt like a drain on tax dollars.

  6. At least you could leave your electronics in the building! My boyfriend had an appointment at the US Embassy in Paris and was coming from somewhere else so he had his laptop with him. He had to run around for almost an hour to all the stores and restaraunts around the Embassy until a small store agreed to hold his laptop for him. Just an fyi if you’re ever in Paris haha
    Also it’s so fitting that you mentioned Antigua. I could never get used to having an armed guard with a huge gun watching me everytime I went to an ATM. I’ve never seen more guns in my life than in Antigua!

    • TBM says:

      I was amazed by all the guns in Antigua. The photo was taken during a political demonstration. It was very unnerving. I didn’t go to any ATMs so I missed out on as armed guy eyeing me as I accessed my own money. That would be intimidating. No laptops in France. Got it!

  7. Beth Ann says:

    I knew there was something fishy about you!!!!! You battery toting outlaw!!!!! It does sound a little extreme all for some notary work. I guess it is good to know that if you need refuge you could go there and b protected….. I have only had brief experiences with embassies— I had to get a new passport whilst living in Australia but it was all done via post. No personal visit at all which made me very happy since we lived far from where the embassy was. Keep those batteries safe, TBM!!!

  8. The Hook says:

    I don’t blame you for being intimidated! Those guys look like they mean business!

  9. gkm2011 says:

    This made me laugh out loud! I had to go to the consulate in Shanghai last week, but they have an online system where you can book a date and time so the US citizens section Is fairly orderly. The Chinese service section though- total chaos!

  10. bocafrau says:

    This sounds so familiar to me. We had to go to the US embassy in Frankfurt when we were getting our green cards. It was an experience alright. I hope, you won’t have to return anytime soon!!! 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Last July when I entered Berlin, I spent ten minutes getting grilled in customs. It was the most comprehensive question and answer session I’ve been through yet. Fortunately I had a printed itinerary and such. But the guy was making me sweat and I wasn’t up to anything. I can’t imagine criminals who try to get away with stuff. I would end up in the fetal position, crying.

  11. Valentina says:

    In the time we live, friendliness and trust are words of the past.

    • TBM says:

      Unfortunately nations have to take these measures. If I knew the rules beforehand, I would have left everything behind–but I didn’t read the fine print, so that’s my mistake.

  12. Batteries! When did they get added to the anti-terrorist list? Sheesh. I have missed an art museum because there was no way I was leaving an expensive camera with strangers.

  13. zelmare says:

    It’s such a pity people have to be so paranoid these days. When I went to the German Embassy for my visa, I also had to hand in my camera.

  14. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I once had to visit the Nigerian high commission – believe me you had it easy!

  15. Jo Bryant says:

    Ahhhhh…bureaucracy. I had fun getting in to The Netherlands once. I was coming back from Australia. I was living with my fiance so had no return ticket out. Had transferred all Aussie money via the bank so had no money. They held me for hours…meanwhile fiance was outside watching my bag go round and round on its lonesome on the baggage carousel. Finally they let me outside to get him [I could understand most of what they were saying – not good as they were about to put me on a plane out, unconvinced I actually had a fiance], so I ran to him in tears. It must have looked funny to others as the security guard was hot footing it after me. After he explained it all, all it took was a later trip to the Police station with my bank book…over and done with. If they had just paged him in the first place…but nothing I said for hours would get them to do that.

    • TBM says:

      Why didn’t they just look for your fiance–seems a whole lot quicker to solve the problem. We like to watch the show Nothing to Declare and I’m surprised all of the time by what some travelers have to go through when entering a new country. Your story would have been on the show! I’m glad it worked out in the end and now you should turn it into a story.

  16. pattisj says:

    They’ve taken all the fun out of travel with all the rules and regulations. I guess they do what they they need to in keeping everyone safe.

  17. Oh my – what an experience. Like others, I was never sure if you were a guy or girl (not that it matters) but now we want to know more about you! I was once stopped at customs with some stilton and bacon – it seems that in my case it appeared to look like dynamite, can you believe it?!

  18. lynnsbooks says:

    Great story and comments – I love that you’ve finally been revealed!! No longer a gentleman. You’re an undercover photo op!
    Lynn 😀

  19. Fergiemoto says:

    I would hightail it out of there too!
    That was quite an experience at the embassy. I hope you got everything back from them. I guess I won’t have a good reason to complain if it takes a while to get something notarized here. I’ve never had to wait anywhere that long for a notary.
    (By the way, after over a year of following your blog, I had not known your gender until I read “She’s got batteries!” It wasn’t a big deal for me to know…it’s just that now I know!) 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I’m learning I should consider a post about me so all of you aren’t in the dark. It’s a little funny for me that it was a mystery. I never thought of that. Now I wished I supplied clues and then had a big reveal.

  20. Kate Kresse says:

    oh boy—i bet you WERE relieved to have that over with. How intimidating!! i remember years ago when i flew to Euroe for the first time. We de=planed in Milan to catch our flight to Rome. On each side of the jetway was a a pair of armed men wearing camo and toting what looked like large machine guns!!!

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