My journey was no exception to this axiom, as I stayed at the Little Café Near Home (LCNH) after the game. I was just packing up my hardware when the guy at the next table tried to strike up a conversation with me. I think he was asking how I got the Internet there. That’s the question I answered, anyway (I don’t). The woman he was with did speak English (I got extra points for asking where her dog Dina was tonight), and we ended up talking until LCNH closed. I had always assumed the two were a couple, and he did refer to her as his přitelkinÄ› (which is a little more familiar than kamarada), so when another guy joined us and started hitting on her (and then some) I was a bit surprised.
The sound of the alarm was most unwelcome this morning. “Here we go,” I said as I hauled my sorry butt out of bed and considered the things I had delayed this trip for, still not done. I’ve had a bit of a cold the last three days, and that completely undermined the “boo-yah” attitude I needed, and the thought of going in to town to chase down things I needed was just too much. I’m sure I’ll feel much better about shopping on my way back from the airport when I return.
Statistically, more people stand in the fast line than in the slow line. Today I didn’t notice the sign over the counter that said (in Czech, of course) “Counter for people with bizarre problems we’ve never seen before”. The graying woman in line in front of me actually started shouting at poor Lucie, the woman who had to deal with a homemade dog carrier that had sharp posts sticking up and the wheels came off of. I have no idea what the problem was with the next group, but eventually it required a conference of several people to resolve. That’s when the next lady started shouting. I had to chuckle; the speed of the line was not going to affect what time we landed in Madrid. Finally things started moving again, at least until the shouting woman got there. There was some problem with her ticket, but fortunately this time it was resolved more quickly.
Now I’m sitting at the gate, and as I typed that last sentence the guy with the homemade dog carrier got summoned to the counter. Apparently he’s not out of the woods yet.
I’m in Madrid!
As I walked down the aisle in the plane, I thought, “Damn! There’s even less leg room that usual. Then I got to my row – an exit row! Horray! Once I was wedged between the other two guys, the flight attendant came by to give us the spiel about how to open the door in an emergency. “Czech? English? She asked. “Czech” the guy on the aisle said. She’s Pretty, I thought. I listened with rapt attention as she told us how dozens of lives, including our own, could hang in the balance. I nodded in understanding. Blue eyes, I thought. Luckily there were no emergencies on the flight, and the door remained safely sealed.
Continuing with a theme, there were two lines for passport control; only after I was trapped did I realize the other line was being serviced by two windows, while mine was serviced by only one – and there was some kind of problem with the guy at the window. There was quite a bit of consternation when some people were told to fill out a form and go to the back of the line – there had been nothing to indicate that anyone needed to fill out anything. I figured that would be my fate, too, but apparently not. I wonder where those guys were from.
After a few nervous moments while he flipped through my passport checking dates he stamped it, making it at least plausibly deniable that I didn’t know I have overstayed my visa. (I have been told I need to leave the European Union every ninety days now, whereas before I only had to leave the Czech Republic. If true, European Union countries could send a lot of Americans home if they wanted to.)
Things were getting interesting with the form-filler-outers when I cleared passport control, and yes, it involved more shouting. I am no longer in the land of stoic and reserved Czechs, not at all. All passport control places that I’ve ever seen are the same. There is a row of glassed-in booths, which contain uniformed bureaucrats looking for reasons not to let people into the country. There are lines of people waiting to be reviewed, and there is a zone between them, the land beyond the line that no one must enter until summoned. Violation of this rule undermines the the security of sovereign nations, and can lead to war.
The Form People, having been invited into this space only to be handed a form and sent packing, did not all leave The Zone, as it provided the only flat surfaces other than the floor for the filling out of forms. The bureaucrats shouted at them. Like proud Gypsy squatters, they held their ground. As I left, one of the Passport control guys had quit his glass cell and was waving his arms as one might to chase the goats out of your garden. I didn’t stand around to watch, wanting to get to customs before the people who had to wait for their bags.
Now I sit in the departure lounge at the train station, munching a fairly tasty sandwich. The security is tighter here that I have seen in train stations in the past; all bags are x-rayed and there is no more hanging around on the platform while you wait for your train to arrive. This feels more like an airport than a train station, although I should say the appearance of security is tighter; if the woman watching the X-ray screen opened her eyes while my bag went past I didn’t see it.
In summary, Tram Metro Bus Airplane Metro Metro Metro High-Speed Train Seville!