Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Grand Inquisition.

And one more story.

On my last day in Vienna, we visited Wittgenstein's house then hopped on the train to Prague. There was a scare immediately prior to that where we thought we missed our train, but thankfully the clock Spencer spotted was one hour fast, so all was right with the transportation/trying to get out of the country world. Arriving in Prague was not as wonderful, however, mostly because we didn't know how to get to where we would be sleeping that evening, and had a lot of things to carry (including heavy, non-traditionally shaped luggage, a gigantic bike box, and a bike), and got lost quickly. The place was also not as close as Spencer suspected, which was unfortunate. More unfortunate was that Spencer accidentally mixed up the zipcode with the house number, so we had the correct street, but that was all. We were supposed to meet a woman at the space to receive the key, and were running late since we were running lost. This meant that Spencer was feeling urgent, and we were both feeling a little frustrated. It also meant that when we found that street, Spencer took over on the bike and rode up and down shouting, "Margarita! Margarita!" at the top of his lungs because that is the woman's name who had been emailing him. He would also stop unsuspecting pedestrians if they knew and/or were Margarita. Sadly, none of them were, and none of them knew her whereabouts or who-abouts. During Spencer's time of guess who I sat on the sidewalk by the remainder of our stuff. As I already mentioned, one of these stuff-items was an extra-large bike box, made out of cardboard. And the other items were mismatched luggage: panniers, backpacking backpack, etc. Not a single piece of traditional luggage. Now picture me at this moment: I was cold (and increasingly getting colder), sick (and likely increasingly getting sicker), and was unshowered. Now picture everyone who walked by me during this time: I am 99% sure that 99% of them thought I was homeless. And really, it is not their fault (though it was very depressing).

Eventually Spencer took his bike riding regime to the next step in our plan (which probably should have been the first), and that was to find somewhere to check his email, to try to contact the woman and to secure the proper address. He came back after doing those very things. Now that we knew the correct apartment building we waited patiently for someone to arrive so we could sneak in behind them, and of course ask them if they were Margarita. We did make our way in eventually, and no one we saw was the elusive stranger. Spencer left me there, while he returned to his shouting, "Margarita!" rounds up and down the street. I didn't want to be doing that, but didn't really like staying behind either. I was embarrassed to be a loiterer in a foreign place, especially each time some non-Margarita person walked in and out, since I kept getting the same looks. Finally, an old woman walks in. Following Spencer's lead I ask her the requisite question. No, she wasn't Margarita either, but through the open door I suddenly spot a woman in a van who is looking at me intently. I cautiously wave. She less cautiously waves back, and gets out of the car to approach me. She sticks out her hand. Again I ask, "Are you Margarita?" "No." She answers, "I'm Helen." The woman we were waiting for was named Helen! Margarita was her partner! I could not believe it. Spencer comes soon after, and the woman named Helen takes us upstairs to the apartment, hands us the keys, shows us around, and then departs. I am so tired and grumpy and hungry and cold, and we still had packing/rearranging to do. Spencer is the biggest trooper though, because he wasn't even upset that the lady's name was not Margarita, or that we had been outside for two plus hours in unfavorable circumstances. He is also a trooper because he then stayed up most of the night packing my bike in the infamous box, while I slept.

We had Helen's person take us to the airport the following day because my flight was early in the morning, and there was no way we would have been able to navigate the city to the airport, drag all of my luggage to boot, and make it through flying-to-another-country security in time. Especially because of how bad/long that flying-to-another-country security was. I was nervous that I would get in trouble for staying in the EU longer than my allotted 90 tourist days, but I think it would have felt like an inquisition anyway: a grand inquisition. You see, the woman asked me one million questions. Or perhaps one million and one. They were questions like, "When did you get into Prague? How did you get here? Where was your luggage? What's in your luggage? Has anyone touched your luggage? Where was your luggage this morning? Where was your luggage 5 minutes ago? Why aren't you flying out of Vienna? What other countries did you travel to? Where did you stay in those countries? Who were you with? What were you doing in there? Why isn't your husband flying with you? Etc., Etc." That last (non-Etc.) question got me, because I really wanted Spencer to be flying with me, and until two days before I thought he would be, but then he found out that he had to stay longer to finish his semester and I still had to go back as scheduled to start mine. There were more of these types of questions, including the much dreaded, "When did you arrive in Europe?" question. I answered honestly though vaguely, "A few months ago," and was grateful when the followup question was, "What specific day?" because I didn't know the specific day, so could say, "I don't know the specific day," without being a liar. It was easy to answer the other accompanying question of where I flew into, and all of the other queries, so I thought things were going okay, but then the lady told me that her supervisor would need to interview me further. She also asked me if she could interview Spencer. She asked why he wasn't going with me and all of the other questions she had already pressed me with, while her head pressed me again, repeatedly asking when I got there. After she was satisfied, she also interviewed Spencer. After this supervisor left, the original person asked me two more questions. They sounded the most memorized/probably required, so any absurdity is not necessarily the asker's fault. With that defense out of the way: Read on.

Woman: It is sometimes the case that passengers bring bombs on the plane. Are you bringing a bomb on the plane?

Me, vocally: No.

Me, silent: No, but if a passenger was, would they really tell you?

Woman: It is sometimes the case that other people give passengers bombs to carry on the plane. Did someone give you a bomb to carry on the plane?

Me, vocally: No.

Me, silent: (Please see above.)

With all of this grief, they actually let me through. Just in time for the person checking my bags to give me additional grief, to call her authority to give me even more. All in all, it is a miracle that I made it home.

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