Hope is a Treacherous Bastard. Or: How to Deal with Customs on the Way to Croatia
My time in Barcelona is coming to an end, so I decided to take a post-grad trip to Croatia.
I arrived at the airport 1.5hrs before my flight, which is super early.
Like, in travel terms, arriving that early is like wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a pocket protector to high school.
You might as well tattoo “Nerd” on your forehead.
But whatever, I figured I would just get to my gate early and read my book.
Did I mention “Nerd”?
The line for Vueling took almost an hour and suddenly I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh wow, it’s a good thing I got here early. Otherwise, I would be panicking.’
I got through security with no problems and plenty of time to spare.
Then, I looked for my gate.
It was Gate D.
Like, the gate for customs.
Like, the gate that you use to leave the European Union.
I stared at the gate assignment, confused, and thought to myself, ‘Did I miss a memo? Is Croatia not in the European Union?!?”
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it took me days to remember that Croatia is part of the EU, but it is not part of the Schengen region. Hence, the customs requirement.
It’s a good thing that I happened to bring my passport.
But I’ve been through customs before. How long could this take?
Answer: A long fucking time.
I came around the corner and discovered the line for customs: Imagine 1,000 people, cattled together, shouldering each other in a hopeless attempt to get through two (count them…two!) customs agents.
My flight was at 12:30pm.
It was 11:45pm.
I would never make it.
As I stared at that line, my soul wailed and howled with immortal pain, then withered and died in my chest.
But it’s not like I could really turn back and go home either. So, I joined the cattle herd and I experienced the joys of bathing in other people’s sweat and frustration.
Oh, joy. Oh, rapture.
A half hour later, the girl next to me was checking her phone for delayed flights and told me, excitedly, “Your flight has been delayed until 1pm!”
Hope – that treacherous bastard – fluttered in my chest.
But then I looked at the line again.
It was a clusterfuck. Fights were starting to break out and the civil guard had been called in.
My hope crashed.
I looked back at the girl.
“I’m still not going to make it,” I told her.
Want to know how long I was in line for customs?
I was there for…wait for it….drum roll, please….1.5 hours.
And when did I get through customs, you ask?
Like, when my flight was taking off.
But when that customs agent stamped my passport, a new desperate hope filled in my chest.
What if boarding took longer than planned?
What if my flight is still here?
What if I can make it?!?
I ran towards my gate like a bat out of hell.
Or – given my clunky carry-on baggage and rusty running technique – maybe less like a bat and more like a drunken ostrich.
I ran to my gate and reached it, chest heaving as though I had just run a marathon (rather than the one meter that I had actually run).
But it was too late.
My flight to Dubrovnik had already left.
And my once-soaring hope crashed to the ground once again.
And I immediately doubled over from the exhaustion of my impromptu, airport workout.
Concerned for my physical (and perhaps mental) health, a Spanish woman came over to check on me.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who got screwed over by customs. She and twenty-five other people had just missed it as well.
But. Check. This. Out.
One of the Spanish dudes called the air traffic controller. Who called Vueling.
And Vueling stopped the flight on the runway and sent a bus to pick us up.
I fuck you not.
The Spanish women clutched their rosaries, rattled them in the air, and proclaimed, “Es un milagro de la Virgen!”
“It’s a miracle of the Virgin Mary!”
Frankly, I’m inclined to agree: I’ve never heard of anything like this happening, and I can only credit the mother of Jesus herself to creating an airport miracle.
Hope may be a treacherous bastard, but luck was on my side that day and “la Virgen” got my ass to Croatia.