“The story is always better than your ability to write it.” — Robin McKinley
If you’ve ever traveled outside the country – whatever country you would consider be outside of in relation to the one that you are inside of most often – you know there the horrors of Travel Day.
Whenever you book a trip, you essentially give up an entire day when you’re moving from one location to the next. It’s like going out in Los Angeles. My friend Tim, who until recently was the film editor at the Los Angeles Times, used to say: no matter what you do in L.A., it takes an hour to get there and you start by throwing $50 out the window.
But I’ve grown accustomed to the trials and tribulations of traveling in a place that’s Outside so I plan accordingly. Today, I’m going from one Outside (Berlin) to another Outside (London). That means extra care. I brought an extra $50 of local money (I spent mine today after I forget to check my bags), I showed up early (in case I get lost or forget to check my bags, forcing me to queue a few times) and I stayed calm as things began to unravel ever so slightly around me.
I stayed Zen, that is, until the Germans asked me to step out of line and invited me to step into the back room.
Look, it’s 2010 and my friends and I joke about the Bad Old Days. We’re dark like that, but you would be too if you were drinking cappuccino on Karl Marx Boulevard. There’s something surreal about sitting in color in a place you’ve only seen in black-and-white. The point is: I know it’s not 1938. The German people are amazingly thoughtful and reticent about their past. They take their mistakes seriously as they should. And it is a new day here.
But when a big German asks you to step into the back room, I don’t give a shit how cool you and what year it is, there’s a moment. (For the record, my stupid ass MacBook Pro –- the one issued to me by my school, which has never run properly despite 3 installs of the Mac software, that has no ability to record video with its webcam, but that runs Windows flawlessly – was “too big.” They thought it might be an explosive device. I continue to hate Apple.)
It passed. I was a minor annoyance in their day.
Then I got annoyed.
Not at the Germans (who have now pulled me out of line 3 times on my 3 trips here). At the general genetic disposition that plagues me.
After 9/11, I was on the Do Not Fly list for about 2 years. Every time I flew – Every. Time. I. Flew. – I was taken to meet the head of airport security because of that. I would file a claim to have my name removed. I would get a letter saying my name was removed. Then I would meet the head of airport security again.
For two decades, I’ve been pulled over as I cross the border from Texas to Arkansas. If you follow my Tweets when I travel, I now take pictures of the before and after me. Last year, I was pulled over and my entire car was searched. Luggage taken apart on the side of the road. Ridiculous.
And now, now the Germans have me pegged too.
I’m at my wits end because Tim didn’t tell me what to do after preparing for the time and expense of traveling. I’ve mastered the Art of Travel Zen. I’ve created buffer zones in time and space. I have multiple currencies and back-up cash sources at all times.
But apparently I look like one mean as son of a bitch ready to take a few folks out.
At least people have stopped assuming I’m French.
So there’s that.