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Arriving in London

Royal Albert Hall
April 4, 2014

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Arrived in London on a Friday, well ahead of Monday's meetings and after stopping in for a drink near Paddington Station and dropping my bag at my AirBnB flat in Chelsea, made my way out to see the dusk in Kensington Park

Walking just across Kensington Road from the Royal Albert Hall, a man asked me if I would take his photo in front of the Albert Memorial. An increasingly odd request in the Age of the Selfie, but I agreed and, noting the age of his early model digital camera and his accent (Turkish?) thought he might not be hip to selfies.

Snapped two shots and then, as I handed his camera back to him, two other men came running up behind and grabbed me, told us to freeze. Stupid! I thought about myself. Two hours on the ground and I'm already in trouble. I'm such a mark when I'm out walking around alone. A puffy middle-aged sack of money.

They whipped open wallets that may or may not have had valid police identifications in them and asked for our IDs. But as I reached into my pocket for my passport, my anger at myself caused a strange transformation and I became suddenly very aggressive.

No! I demanded. Show me your identificaiton again! Show me! I'm an American citizen here on a business trip. What is the meaning of this! Tell me what this is about and I'll produce my passport!

To my surprise, this had some effect. One of them drew out his ID again and began to explain that this area of the park was known for drug deals.

But I kept up the performance. Here is my passport! I showed them. I'm an American citizen here for business meetings. I've done nothing wrong. I'm going to walk away now!

And I did. And to my surprise, they let me.