It is now the 19th of October (WOW this blog moves slow), and with two days until the International Workshop for Plan 9 begins in Athens, Georgia, it is time I bid Europe adieu. My flight leaves at like 08:30 so I am up around 05:00 to make sure I get to the airport on time. The free airport shuttle bus runs every 20 minutes all night (the metro also runs regularly, good work Copenhagen), so I only have a 15 minute walk or so to the airport bus stop.
I end up ridiculously early to the airport. Turns out my umbrella is too long to fit in my bag, and it probably won't get through security so I strap it to the outside - I'm curious whether I can make this work. The lady checking in my baggage notices this and suggests it gets checked in as a seperate item, which makes enough sense to me.
Eventually the plane to Dusseldorf arrives, where I have another long wait for my flight to New York. The long wait is accentuated by the plane being two hours late to arrive, and I am quite restless when it eventually does. Finally they call my row to board, and after handing over my boarding pass get stopped by the question:
"Can I see your return flight?"
"I haven't booked a return flight yet".
"Oh, well can I see your visa?"
"I don't have a visa, I'm staying for less than 90 days".
"You're not allowed into the USA without a visa or evidence that you intend to leave in the next 90 days".
"You serious? So what are my options?"
"Either you stay here, or book a return flight right now".
So, I hop over to the counter and wait for a hostess to come available and help me book a return flight. At this point I have very little clue how I'm getting home. I don't know where I'll be flying out of, and may head home via Argentina. However, there is so much time pressure and my options are limited because they'll only let me book another Air Berlin flight, so I take the first flight she offers me. €350 for Miami to Dusseldorf on the 15th of January. Note that my plan is to be back in Perth before the 21st of November, so I fly to the states holding a return ticket I fully intend to cancel.
I apologise to the girl I'm sitting next to for making the plane even later, but she isn't very fussed about it. She's german, and heading to the states to catch up with a bunch of bands she's friendly with. She knows a lot of them through her work in show support/marketing and through her previous visit to the states about 10 years ago.
As it turns out she is also fructose (!) intolerant, vegetarian by choice, and avoids onion, garlic, honey and wholegrains which all cause her rashes. It's probably quicker to list the foods she can consume, but unfortunately she didn't provide Air Berlin with such a list. I eat very well on this flight, and feel terrible about every bite.
We arrive at JFK Airport in New York, and ironically enough US immigration doesn't even care about my return flight. Seriously, even UK immigration hassled me more about how I was getting from the US back to Australia. Anyway, it appears that the rumours regarding USA's invasive border control have been greatly exaggerated.
Maybe it's just me, but there's something awfully amusing about an umbrella on a baggage carousel.