A few years ago I was in the UK for work. After about 3 weeks of working non-stop, I had a day off, and decided to take the Virgin train as far away as it could take me. The destination: Waverley Station in Edinburgh, Scotland.
This place was beautiful! I had never been to a city like this in my entire life, no joke. I was in a brand new city, with my camera and had the entire day to myself. What more could I ask for? I walked everywhere – within the city and even up to the hills around it. I took hundreds of photos (which you’ll see more of soon enough) of everything – the city,the people, the castles, the close (alleys), the buildings, the statues, the churches and the trains. Ah yes… the trains…
Towards the end of my day, I walked back to the train station with about an hour to spare. Intentionally so that I could photograph the trains at Waverley Station. I had a vision of shooting them, with no people in the frame. So I walked towards the side of the station, still inside, but along the wall. Once I got there, I wanted to move further in to get the trains at a straight 90 degree view. The problem was I had a short fence with an unlocked gate in my way. There were no mean signs around, (not that that would have stopped me) so I did what any photographer with a vision would do; I opened the gate and got to my desired position.
I took a couple of photos, none where as epic as I had hoped. So I walked back to the main waiting area and headed up the escalator to at least try to get a bird’s eye view before leaving.
As I reached the top I heard a loud, Scottish voice saying “Hey you! Stop right there!” I turned around to see two unfriendly Scottish police officers walking towards me. Once they stopped me, they asked me to take off my hood and to surrender my bag. I had no idea what was going on, but these dudes were serious, so I complied.
They asked me, “what were you doing near those trains!?” “Don’t you know you can’t photograph train stations!?” I answered with the truth. I was taking pictures and had no idea I wasn’t supposed to do that. They then asked me what was in my bag. “Just my camera and other random things,” I said. They then informed me that they were going to search it and began opening my bag, taking out everything while they continued to tell me how suspicious I looked.
The entire time, while scared, I was fighting back giggles because they did have thick Scottish accents and all I could think of was Mike Meyers in So I Married an Ax Murderer. After the officers finished searching my bag they informed me that I was being held and searched under suspicion of terrorism.
Not only that, but they were required to write me a notice for this. I was going to get a “ticket” for Terrorism? No effing way.
Yes way. The Scottish officers asked for all my personal information and informed me that since 9/11 they are required to question and write up all suspicious individuals under their new “section 44 terrorism” code. After they jotted down everything they handed me a copy of my notice and my camera bag. They asked me to be more careful next time, to stay away from forbidden areas, added a tip to never photograph government buildings and finally wished me a nice day.
I started walking away, when a local (the accent gives them away) elderly gentleman stopped and asked me, “Why did they stop you?” I explained what had happened and the nice old man became enraged! “What! That is ridiculous!” He turned towards the cops and continued his rant, “This is why tourists think poorly of us! Why must you harass this poor young man, who was only admiring our trains! Shame on you!” The cops ignored him. He apologized profusely on their behalf, “I cannot believe you had to go through that,” he said. I put him at ease by telling him it was okay, that I didn’t mind so much, and that at least I got a pretty unique souvenir out of it.
I’ve gotten in trouble several times before for going places I’m not supposed to, or for photographing forbidden things. But this one was the most memorable. I just hope their filed copy doesn’t bite me in the ass later on when I try going back to the UK one day on vacation.