Joseph Schofield's canny way of getting a US visa led to his mugging and a lonely night in a bus station
I WAS in America at a sports camp on an island, having just sat (and almost certainly failed) my A-levels. The camp was on a beautiful lake called Winnepesaukee, but I had failed to organise a work visa. I'd lied my way through immigration and assumed that three months of waterskiing and adventure beckoned.
The chap in charge of the camp saw it differently and told me to go home, get the visa and come back. My $100 wasn't going to cover this so I hatched a plan whereby I would take the bus to Montreal, obtain a visa and be back in two days. I paid for a ticket at a lost town in the mountains at an obscene time in the morning - and managed to lose it within the 30 feet to the bus. By the time I arrived in Montreal, in the middle of the jazz festival, there was not a hotel room to be found. I ended up on the wrong side of town and, in desperation, asked one proprietor for a room. He obliged, and then asked me what sort of wife I wanted. My finances would only stretch to the taste of a beer so I declined the offer but took the room and headed into town. All was fine until I was grabbed around the throat, shoved against a wall and relieved of my wallet.
A fitful night's sleep was not helped when a large metal object was thrown through the window. Terrified, I disappeared under the covers and waited for the morning. When I emerged, the owner accused me of smashing the window and demanded $40. I refused. Two unpleasant-looking men appeared, at which point I would have paid, but I had no money. I stood my ground until I was shoved out of the door, then gave a two-fingered salute and ran away.
At the embassy, staff could not fathom why I was going about obtaining a visa in such an eccentric way. Feeling lonely, broke and certain I was not going to make it back to New Hampshire, I began talking to another chap in the queue who offered me a lift to Boston if he managed to get a visa. He then informed me that his brother had been involved in a slight "security problem" and this was his eighth attempt for a visa. Anyway, after much wrangling and numerous phone calls, I got the precious stamp and so did my new-found friend. Heading south, all seemed fine, until my companion started talking. For five hours he told me about every sexual conquest of his life. At one point he insisted I take notes.
When he dropped me off in Boston, it was pouring with rain. I got lost and missed the last bus. With the money I scraped together from my bag I only had enough cash for a bus in the morning and had to spend a night in the bus station.
I have been back to America since. But I've never again forgotten my visa.