complications at customs

Uf! Tonight brought another complication at Customs. Praise the Lord (and British Airways) that I got to enjoy a complimentary gin and tonic before having this conversation.

Customs Man: How long are you staying in The Netherlands?

Me: Until December 20.

Customs Man: Then back to the States?

Me: No. Then on to Germany.

Customs Man: For how long?

Me: Until December 28.

Customs Man: Then back to the States?

Me: No. Then on to Portugal until January 7.

Customs Man: Then back to the States?

Me: No. Then on to Spain until, well, I’m not sure how long, but I’m hoping to stay until May-ish?

Customs Man: OK. Do you have a Visa?

Me: No. Do I need one?

Customs Man: Only if you want to stay until May.

Me: So, if I applied now…

Customs Man: No, it doesn’t work that way. (With slightly annoyed smile), Would you please follow me?

The next 15 minutes informed me that I could not stay in “The Schengen Area,” which consists of 26 European countries, for more than a total of 90 days within a 6 month span. (Ahhh, I thought to myself. I vaguely recall reading something about this before I left).

So, he continued, since you’ve recently been 5 days in Paris then you have 85 days left, starting today.

Customs Man: March 9, and then you’ll have to leave.

Me: Hmmm. Not quite May.

Customs Man: Not quite. Would you still like to enter?

Me: I’d love to!!! I don’t really have any other plans tonight.

Customs Man: Go on, then. Cheers!

So that throws a bit of a wrench in my travel plans, but what is life without a good turn or two?

Exhausted from a long day of travel, which began at 4:30AM and took me in and out of a taxi, two busses, three cities, and an aircraft, I decided to ignore the little voice in my head that said, “Take the bus!” and opted for a taxi instead.

At the end of the day, you can only hold it together for so long. Eventually, the mind forfeits any and all sensible intelligence to fatigue, or at least mine does. (Another area for improvement, I suppose).

Me: How much will it be to go here? (I point to the address on my Airbnb Receipt).

Cab Driver: Oh, not too much. It’s hard to say. It’s a rather quick drive, though, about 20km.

I get in and he starts driving.

Me: The meter is moving rather quickly.

Cab Driver: It’s an official meter.

Me: (With surrender and sarcasm), Of course it is. Of course.

As the meter went up, I went down and sank myself low into the back seat. Occasionally I’d blink, try to read something other than what I was seeing on the meter and tell myself that it was all wrong. But in my mind I knew I was being totally ripped off and I knew, like I always do in retrospect, that I should have listened to my gut and went with the bus.

65 Euros later, I arrive at my Airbnb in Haarlem.

If I could do it again, I would have taken the bus.

If I could do it again, I would have had two gin and tonics.

If I could do it again, I would have taken down the taxi number and licence plate. I’d have gotten his name and written down the cab company. I would have said something else, anything else; I’m not sure what I would have said, but I would have!

But I can’t do it again. What can I say? We live and we learn.

If I could do it again, I’d have listened to that little voice! Better yet, I would have befriended that little voice. Until then, I keep learning things the hard way, which, in my mind, is a rather good way of learning something and learning it well. 

Thank God, tomorrow is a new day.


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