London was really good. I saw a lot of friends, went for my favourite walk with Jono along the south bank of the river and experienced some unusual art in the Tate Modern that involved mounted policemen. I also spent one night in a village in Sussex where I got to walk with Harry the dog and Big G along country lanes late at night under the stars.
Still, I am always happy to land back in Prague. When I arrived at the airport yesterday afternoon, there were only 5 windows open at passport control and 3 of them were for EU/EEA passport holders only. The 2 “ALL OTHER PASSPORTS” queues were not particularly long, but they were moving unusually slowly. I had chosen the queue with the higher ratio of white people, but it seems that that may no longer be the right strategy.
After observing what was going on up at the window for a few minutes, I started to suspect that perhaps the immigration cop was being a bit overzealous. I considered changing queues, but then I thought – I have a long-term visa in my passport so I should have nothing to worry about.
Will I never learn?
I smiled as I said “Dobrý den” and handed her my passport. She put my passport in the reader, then took it out and examined the photograph and then looked intently at me and then examined the photograph and then looked intently at me and then examined the photograph again.
She studied every page of my passport, and I have a double-thick passport and most of the pages are full of stamps. She finally settled on my current Czech visa, which is valid until March, and she decided she didn’t like it.
You don’t have a normal visa.
I do, you have it there.
What kind of visa is this? It’s not trvalý pobyt, it’s not dlouhodobý pobyt.
Yes, it is, it’s dlouhodobý pobyt.
No, this is not the right kind of visa, it doesn’t look right. You don’t have the right stamp on it. Where is the red stamp? This is přechodný pobyt.
Now, I have had all of those different kinds of visas and I had no idea what she was on about. Trvalý pobyt is permanent residency – what I had when I was married to a Czech. Dlouhodobý pobyt is long-term residency – what you usually have if you are employed by a company or self-employed under a Czech trade licence. Přechodný pobyt is temporary residency – what I had when I was a contractor to the Ministry of Defence through the US Department of Defence. And it shouldn’t have made any difference to her what was in my passport as long as it wasn’t expired.
She eventually gave up that line of questioning to try another. She asked me if I had that white entry paper that they used to use with long-term visas. I told her that I did not, that I had never used one. She didn’t believe me. I thought for a minute that she wasn’t going to let me in because I didn’t have that paper even though they had always had blank ones for people to fill in – back when they used to use them, I mean. She said that I had the old kind of visa and therefore I needed the white entry paper. I just stared at her like she was completely mental, because she was.
The cop babbled away for another few minutes and I just stared at her. Then suddenly she shrugged, shook her head and sighed, looked at me like I was a completely hopeless case, and at last stamped my passport and allowed me through to the other side.