Saturday, May 8, 2010

Traveling Make Me Crazy, Part 2

Both crazy.

Which on one hand is odd, considering how much I travel, yet because of how much I travel, also quite understandable. This current trip to Kuwait, though, was big even for me.

To start, I was in alternating moods of absolute panic and apathetic reserve over the fact that my Ugandan Align Centervisa was almost three weeks expired. Considering how many travelers I meet by living in a hostel I was sure I would find someone who had overstayed their visit, yet passed through immigration with no problems, but it seems the travelers available at the time were much more cautious than I had hoped. Laurie, who works with Edirisa Multimedia, had once overextended by two days and after rough questioning by immigration she burst into tears and that let her off. Hmm, not the best advice, but it was something to work with. However, my panic increased a thousandfold when I discovered the penalty fee was $30/ day, totaling about $600 for me.

Oh, Jesus, I may faint.

The U.S. Embassy, which I realize probably can't give advice on illegally exiting the country, told me to head to the Immigration Office as soon as possible. Useless advice, as the office would only make me pay. I'll just risk it at the airport.

While heading to the airport I steeled myself with the knowledge that no expiration date was written on my visa, a thought heavily supported by half a bottle of wine and a Xanax. No one can stop me! Yet who knew the most trouble I would have would be at the check-in counter? Seth made my reservation using my bankcard, which means I didn't have it with me. Not ever having been asked to show the card used before, I thought it unnecessary. Apparently Emirates Airlines does not agree. The attendant explained that if he let me through, the airlines might not accept my ticket.

"But if you let me through, it means the airline has accepted my ticket."
"You know, logic: if you let me through, it means I get through. No one else will ask questions."

Ah. I tried to explain that the card has my name on it, which matches the name on my passport, but no. I called Seth to provide some sort of confirmation for the card and was even prepared to pull out my marriage certificate, but no: I would have to buy another ticket at the airport or my husband would have to go to a travel agency and another one. That option was easily ruled out.

"My husband is working, he can't just run off to a travel agency."
"Your husband is working today?"
"Yes, like you, my husband works on Saturday."

Not that I wanted to cancel my flight and be stuck with price of the ticket plus a cancellation fee. When I explained the fact that airlines don't refund tickets because of customer error, the attendant kindly informed me that I was speaking of "airlines", but this was Emirates. Ah.

"Well, until Emirates begins teleporting people, it's still an airline."*
"What?" Considering the attendant, while working for an airline, had likely never flown in his life, I let the matter drop.

And they better provide the glitter effect free of charge.

The other irritating fact is that Entebbe doesn't have the technology to handle plastic transactions, which meant I would have to withdraw over $700 in cash to pay for a new ticket. Yet, frantic as I was about my visa, and the time it might take to convince immigration to let me through, I was almost tempted to go ahead and go through the trouble of getting another ticket.

I don't have Picard's willpower.

Then the attendant got a hold of someone in Dubai and asked the pivotal question:

"Can you confirm your billing address?"

And with that done I was clear. Off to the bathroom to apply a bit of blush and mascara, then skillfully chose the immigration line with a male attendant. With barely a glance at my passport or my face, he asked:

"How long have you been in Uganda?"
"About three months."
"Have a safe flight." Stamp. Stamp. Stamp.

What a total waste of a Xanax.

*It turns out Emirates only charges a $75 cancellation fee and will fully refund your ticket if you reschedule your flight. Federation of Planets, here we come.

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