Jan. 19th, 2009

ladyfalcon: (autumn kisses)
SO. Today was not my first bad day in Prague. I had some bad days back in my TEFL program. There was the day where I went to laugh at something and wound up crying instead. There was the day I got in a shouting match with my instructor, which was actually less of a shouting match and more of a contest to see who could fit their head farther up their own ass (it was a tie).

This was my first non-TEFL related bad day, though. All because I decided to stop being a criminal.

See, I've been riding the Prague public transportation for free for a while now. And by 'a while now' I mean 'since I got here'. Tickets on the Prague system are bought by time (the cheapest being a half-hour ticket at 18 Kc). They're paper and cheap and you basically get it stamped by a machine on your way into the station and then you're free to go about your business. And usually I just... don't buy a ticket. Because most people have month-passes that are basically ID cards that sit in your pocket and the way you 'use' them is just to produce them if an inspector ever asks. But after about two weeks of consistently buying paper tickets and never being asked to produce them, I just stopped paying altogether. There's a ton of things that require me to use coins around here that made me not want to put my precious metals in the ticket machine. And no one ever bothered me.

My reasons for changing this way of doing things were many. For one, even though I have never been asked to show a ticket, I have seen ticket inspectors on platforms and always felt a frisson of fear that I could really do without. Second is that it just seems wrong to cheat the country that I'm trying to get a visa in. And third is that I'm getting an extra 580 Kc's a month from my job to pay for the month pass, so I figured I might as well get one. And I had some hours free between lessons today, so why not?

But god. Why did it have to be such a hassle? Crime was easier!

First problem is that not all Metro stations have manned ticket counters where you can buy a month-pass. I wound up going to Florenc, which I had heard had one. But Florenc is a transfer point, and a big station, so after wandering around for about 10 minutes I decided to head all the way up the yellow line to Vysočanská instead, because I knew for a fact they would make the pass.

I also knew I needed a passport photo for the pass, but the photo booth in Florenc had an old woman sleeping in it (!), so I decided not to bother her. You see those booths all around anyway, so I was certain of there being one when I needed it.

So. All the way up to Vysočanská. For reference, I started my trip at Kačerov, which is three stops from the end of the red line, and Vysočanská is three stops away from the other end of the yellow line. So I've basically crossed the whole of Prague already at this point. It is a long trip.

So I get to Vysočanská. I even find the ticket counter. I am told that to get a month-pass I need a passport photo. I ask where the nearest photo booth is.

I am told that it is at Palmovka. Two stops away back the way I came. I am also, humiliatingly, given a map of the Metro with Palmovka circled on it, despite my replies of 'ano' and 'rozumím' to indicate understanding.

So. I get to Palmovka. I find the photo booth. It is empty of old ladies. It is 100 Kc for ID photos, and I deposit my change.

Except that I do not have enough change. The machine doesn't accept coins smaller than 5 Kc, and I am five measly koruna too short to complete the purchase. I would have plenty if the thing accepted 1 or 2 Kc coins, but alas.

Oh, and did I mention that the machine doesn't give change, either? So I actually have no change.

And the guy at the tabak refused to let me purchase a Kit-Kat bar with the 1,000 Kc note that I took from an ATM to pay for the pass with. (It is one of my few enduring annoyances with the Czech Republic that the banknote generally issued from a bankomat is the 1,000 Kc note, which is impractical for small purchases. Imagine trying to buy a soda with a $50 bill. I find myself buying stuff I don't want just so that I don't feel ridiculous at cash registers, or worse, get turned down as I was today. At least at home, the basic bill issued by machines is the $20, which is versatile in that it is neither too big nor too small to be useful).

So okay. I go to the ATM, remove an extra 200 Kc bill, and the guy at the tabak is nice enough to change it for me without making me buy anything. Bless his heart.

I go back to the photo booth. The machine informs me that, sorry, "Due to huge demand, I am out of film at this time."

Grumph. Back on the train, ALL the way back to Florenc. I have now been in the Metro system for two hours.

It was around this time that things non-related to my goddamned odyssey really started to bother me.

For example: I usually do not get particularly exercised by the behavior of people on the Prague escalator. Those of you who have been around since my epic DC ranting days know that I think you have to be literally born in a barn to not know and heed the 'stand right, walk left' rule. I can't tell you how many times my perpetually late self got stuck on some DC Metro escalator behind two seemingly able-bodied out-of-towners and just. God. It makes my blood boil. I have to get to work, this is a two-lane device, what the fuck.

But, see, that is in DC. My town. This is Prague. Whatever Prague-people want to do with their public utilities is their entire right and privilege. Also, I think when they were making this Metro system they looked at what happened in London during the Blitz and decided to dig the thing extra-deep, because these escalators are really fucking long in any case. So whatever. Prague-dwellers stand two abreast on the Metro escalators, and I settle in for the ride and remember to tack on an extra five minutes to any commute calculations I make.

Except. Except today, I was trapped in Metro hell for literally hours, made worse by every single person who decided that they neither wanted to walk up the Escalator to Fucking Heaven, nor did they want to shift two feet to the right so that I could get by. And by this point that was getting right up my left nostril.

Another thing that usually doesn't press me but did today: Standing Too Damn Close in Non-Enclosed Public Spaces. The only time previous to this that it's actually been a problem was at a coffee shop where this woman beside me in line was so close that literally every motion of her near arm rubbed on mine. And every time I stepped away, she would wait a moment then follow. I am absolutely certain that she wasn't aware of what she was doing (not as such, for example she wasn't trying to surreptitiously pick my pocket), but at the same time I know that if it hadn't been for the language barrier I would have screamed at her, because it was unbelievably irritating and really fucking aggressive, if a probably-unconscious act can be aggressive. Anyway, today was another day for people rubbing all up on me, and I was Not In The Mood.

Luckily at this point things started looking up. I got to Florenc, the old lady had left the photo booth, I got my photo, went back to Vysočanská, paid my 580 Kc, got my goddamned ID. It sounds quick but took about 40 minutes. I even made it all the way back to Budějovická in time for my 4.30 lesson without being late. Total consecutive hours logged without leaving the Metro system once: two and a half.

But still it begs some questions. Like: If only a limited number of Metro stops are equipped to provide the (I.D. photo required) month-pass, why is one of the only Metro stops so equipped also one of the only Metro stops without an I.D. photo booth? And: If you don't want people sneaking rides on the Metro for free, why make it so goddamned hard for them to do it the legal way? (I for one took about 3 days worth of free ridetime today between all the running around I did).

I was a lot more exercised about this whole thing before I had the lesson with my entirely brilliant Advanced Certificate student, and I'm even less bothered now that I've had a BLT for dinner and am looking at a shower and bed before I have to get up at 6.00 tomorrow (teaching is hard work, y'all). But at the time I was about ready to cry or kill something every time an obstacle sent me that little bit back towards the way I had just come.

Who cares, though, amirite? I'm in Prague, where the people are beautiful and kind and generous to a fault. I'm making money doing fun stuff, and with my stable of individual students growing fast, I stand to be making a lot more money very soon. Every day something great happens where I look around and wonder, god, why isn't everyone doing this?

Seriously? It's pretty fucking great.



ladyfalcon: (Default)

October 2011


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