GET THIS: Yesterday I arrived at Dublin airport before 6 am to check in for the flight back to Prague. The CSA clerk said, "you have no other flight ticket out of Prague proving you don't intend to stay more than 90 days in the Czech Republic." I said I knew. She asked, "well, do you have a visa allowing you to stay more than 90 days?" I said I didn't. I said I had permanent residence and have had since 1995. She asked me for proof and I said that my residence card, which is in Czech and which she would not have been able to read anyway, was in Prague. I have always understood that technically you should not take the card outside the country, travelling with your passport instead. I have a new passport and there is no residency stamp in it.

She called a number, gave my name and told me I would have to wait while the airline called the Czech "authorities". I looked at my watch - it was 6:10 in the morning. I opined that the only person likely to be present in a Czech official office at this hour was the night watchman. She shrugged. I said I came to Dublin three months before and CSA didn't challenge me about it then. She said, "no, that's not possible. We have to check it with everybody." In other words, I'm a liar. That special something Czech service providers add to the customer experience seems to rub off even on foreigners working for them.

I was starting to wake up. As I began turning over a selection of insults and belittling jabs in my mind the phone rang back. She had a short conversation, handed me back my ticket and said, "ok, everything's cleared. You can board the flight." I said, "how the hell..." and she cut me off. "Next, please!"

It must be a database, some sort of system that provides airlines access to foreigners' residency status. Not the kind of thing you want to have demonstrated to you at that hour of the morning.

Steve | 15:56 |