When I was little, I used to love airports because it meant vacation. Now I’m 19 and having a mental breakdown in one because I just want to go home.
Leading up to this day, all I asked of the universe was to not be sick for this one important appointment. I don’t go out and party as much as most people at my school. Actually, I think I’ve gone out twice this year, and both times have ended in horrible catastrophes. The Saturday before my appointment was great, until it wasn’t. I started the morning off as I do every other Saturday, going to Bread Day at a local farm with my friends. We sat outside eating croissants and sipping coffee as we watched the community gather together. Later that day, we went on one of my favorite hikes in the area: Devil’s Marbleyard. I went with four other girls from my sorority and it was the most fun I’ve had in a while (thank you midterms and projects!). As part of the Marbleyard & Milkshakes tradition, we stopped at Pink Cadillac Diner on the way back to campus where we indulged in burgers, fries, and of course, milkshakes. After we returned to campus and had showered, both my roommate and I were in our beds as comfortable and content as could be…on a Saturday night. It was 7:30 p.m., which was embarrassing, but we didn’t care because we were happy.
Here comes the infamous theme of paradise to paradise lost: that night was the country band party. Last spring, we went to the same party where a country band played and it was the most fun I’d ever had at a W&L party, being the die hard country music lover that I am. The timing was unfortunate because I was left grappling with these four options:
I have only found myself in this situation once earlier this year and should have learned my lesson then. But did I learn my lesson? No. Peer pressure and FOMO got the best of me, again. We went to the band party and sparing specific details that are not relevant, it was freezing cold and simply not enjoyable. One important detail, however, is this: I was standing by the front of the stage with my roommate and one of our other friends. This other friend had me try a sip of her drink, hugged me multiple times, and overall was around me the entire night. I got back to the room later than I had wanted with a sore throat and frozen body. As you may have guessed by now, I went with option b), unfortunately.
The next morning, Sunday, I woke up deathly ill. I had three required events to attend for my sorority which I attended throughout the day. Remember that friend from the band party? She texted us that she had just tested positive for strep. I went upstairs to the room and cried.
I woke up on Monday and felt even worse. I went to my religion class–the longest hour of my life–and made the decision to go to Urgent Care for a step test (our health center is notoriously known for providing no help whatsoever, but if you need a bag of salt, they’ve got you covered!). I pulled into the Urgent Care parking lot a little after 10 o’clock. I called the number to let them know I was there, like the lady who I’d spoken to earlier to schedule an appointment told me to do. Two and a half hours and one more prolonged mental breakdown later, I was called to come in. Long story short, the strep test was negative. Antibiotics couldn’t save me now, just 10 cups of tea a day and one bottle of honey. My roommate also force fed me her vitamin gummies.
Tuesday and Wednesday I was still sick but somewhat on the upswing. I had skipped all my classes and solely focused on getting better for this appointment that I had been anticipating and preparing for for over a month (adios $35.20 of printing money).
The day had finally arrived. Thursday, October 13, 2022, formally known as the day of my visa appointment. I woke up to rain at 5am. I drank a cup of hot lemon and honey water, grabbed my cough drops, threw on my raincoat, and hit the road. The drive was relatively smooth, which I was thankful for. I had never driven into D.C. alone before. I am not a fan of city driving, but then again, who is? Being the city noob that I am, I managed to choose the most expensive parking garage. It really stung when I walked by two others $15 cheaper right next to mine. I chose this parking spot on maps because it showed it to be literally right next to the consulate.
I put the consulate into maps and started to head over, making sure that I would be early. From what I read online, you are not permitted to go in earlier than 15 minutes. The GPS took me down a very creepy alley. I called the number for the D.C. consulate, in a desperate attempt to get directions to the building, and aftering pressing “1” was directed to go to their website for more information. Not helpful. Then again, I should've known, given their generous 1.9 star rating on Google. Long story short I ran around the block in the pouring rain holding my plastic ziplock gallon bag full of personal documents three times only to be defeated and finally ask a group of strangers on the side of the street. The consulate was literally right next to the parking garage, as it showed on maps. I was looking for a sign or even an Austrian flag perhaps, but all it gave me was a small metal number “1025” that will haunt me to my grave.
I go into the building, drenched with sweat and rain, with only minutes to spare. I go through the security panel and the security lady prints out a ticket and hands it to me. I turn the corner to the waiting area and sit. My ticket number gets called relatively quickly, but the fine print says Iceland. ICELAND. I am NOT going to Iceland. The issue gets resolved and the security lady prints me the right ticket for Austria. Only a matter of seconds have passed, but it was enough for four new people to be called up to each window, leaving no open spots for me. All of this could have been spared if the security lady had printed the right ticket in the first place. Keep in mind I have a flight scheduled to go home timed perfectly according to this appointment. That weekend was “Reading Days” which is a break my school gives during midterms. I thought I was stressed before, but now I am really stressed. Finally, at 11:30, the time my scheduled appointment would have been over, my ticket got called. I go up to the counter and everything is going nice and smooth–YAY! Then I hand over my driver’s license.
“You’re from Massachusetts?” The visa coordinator asks.
“Yes” I weakly confirm, as I knew where this was going.
Basically, my appointment ended early because I could not obtain an Austrian Visa through the Washington D.C. consulate, despite my efforts of providing proof of housing for living in Virginia (at school) and my student I.D., along with my mom calling the consulate to confirm that I could go there. I guess they lied?
I used all of my strength to keep it together until I got in the elevator and absolutely lost it. I drive through the city teary eyed and shaking, eager to get to the airport. Thoughts were bouncing around my head like a pinball. I did all of this for nothing. I could have gone home two days earlier. I didn’t have to pay for this ridiculously expensive flight for this specific day. I wasted money on the visa appointment and fee and parking. I drove into D.C. for nothing. I got stopped by a homeless man. I stressed about this day for over a month just to prolong it. I have to do this all over again.
I arrive at the airport and find the parking lot and the shuttle to be surprisingly easy. I stand in the security line like a lunatic with an endless supply of tears streaming down my face. I made it to my terminal with an hour to spare, at least there’s no stress there. As I sit by my gate, I think: how much worse can it get than having a panic attack in our nation’s capital? Apparently it can get worse. My flight got delayed. Then it got delayed again. And again. I just wanted to be home so I could breakdown in my own house and not in the middle of this stupid airport.
My flight finally landed in Boston. My two hour bus ride home was delayed. It was still raining. I wasted $7 on a really bad pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks as I hadn’t eaten anything all day because I was too stressed. My roommate texted us that she tested positive for strep. At least in one hour this horrible day would come to an end.
Lesson learned: Go with the safe, dependable option, no matter how inconvenient. I went to D.C. because it was only a three hour drive, whereas New York City (during Thanksgiving, might I add), is over five hours away.
Current update: I have a new visa appointment scheduled in New York City the Monday before Thanksgiving, wish me luck!
Latest update: New York office is scary, but I got my Visa! See you in VIENNA!!!
More Blogs From This Author
Hi! I'm Lily and I'm from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I currently attend Washington and Lee University in Virginia. I'm always down for spontaneous adventures, catching sunrise/sunset, and taking pictures of food:) When I graduate college I want to renovate a van and travel the country, visiting every U.S. National Park as I go. Hopefully I'll have a golden retriever with me too. I love meeting new people and gaining new experiences, so I am extremely excited for this term in Vienna!