My Life As A Tom Hanks Movie
You know that 2004 Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, about the guy who gets stranded in an airport and can’t leave for years? Because I’m an idiot, I’m getting to live that movie tonight.
I flew into Vienna late tonight from London, but got hung up at the border crossing at the airport. Turns out that I have overstayed my allotted period in the Schengen Area of the European Union. All the time I spent in Hungary earlier this year counted against my credit. I had this crazy idea that the clock started over after my going back to the US for a month. Nope. I thought that you couldn’t stay more than 90 days in a particular country. Nope — it’s the whole Schengen Zone.
Gosh, I’m thick. O Fortuna!
The Austrian border polizei were very nice, to be honest … but they couldn’t let me in. I had to be escorted by armed guards to go fetch my bag at the baggage carousel. I’m leaving for London on the first flight out in the morning, and will be staying with friends while I appeal to the Austrian Embassy for a residence visa so I can come back to the place I rented in Vienna and spend the rest of the summer. Matt and I were supposed to go next week to Mont-Saint-Michel, Rocamadour, and other places — but I can’t get back into Europe at all without a visa.
The police escorted me to an empty wing here at the airport. It’s desolate. “Find a bench, if you can,” one of them kindly suggested. I’m not being sarcastic: the two young officers, Gregor and Bütul, really did feel sorry for me — but rules are rules, and I am in the wrong. But I do want to thank them for their kindness, and hope their bosses reward them for treating a bumbling American traveler with courtesy and compassion.
As it happens, the door to the airport chapel was open, and I thought, “Yep, I’m going to bed down where people pray to God.” I shoved some benches together, and I’m about to go to sleep for three hours, before I wake up and go meet the police to be escorted to my flight.
What an adventure! I tell you what, they need to build walls to keep dumbasses like me out of Europe. I’ll probably end up having to be in England all next week, so maybe I can get up to Anglo-Saxon holy sites, or something. A friend in Cambridge gave me a book called The Age of Bede today after lunch, and I read the Venerable Bede’s “Life Of St. Cuthbert” on the flight back. On the flight, I closed my eyes and asked St. Cuthbert to pray for a friend who is suffering. Maybe this current travail of mine is St. Cuthbert’s way to get me to come up to Lindisfarne without delay.
UPDATE: Good morning. Slept three hours. As I put my recharged laptop away to leave, I saw a sign in English on the far wall, instructing visitors not to sleep in the chapel. I sure do have a way of bumbling right across other people’s rules and regulations, don’t I? Well, I’m glad I didn’t see it, because I would have ended up sleeping in the hallway. Off to Blighty!