You know that scene in Der Untergang where Hitler rages: ‘Der Angriff Steiners war ein Befehl!!’, right? Of course you do. That’s me when I have to arrange paperwork. It takes my blood into orbit somewhere around the moon. Those red dashes that NASA is about to discover there? Yup, my A+ vein juice. Look for it. Mosquitoes love it.
I get up early, same time as always actually, for some inexplicable reason I’ve become an early riser. It’s one of those things that just happened. Like the day I discovered I was magically cured from my fear of heights…
I have to get at least these three things done today: I have to have my picture taken in a photo booth. I have to drop a picture off at the alien police and get a permanent Slovak identity card in return. I have to deliver some paper work at a school where I’ll be teaching some English, since A) I love English, my thoughts are in English most of the time B) I love Slovak people C) It’s the perfect combination for my work as a therapist, because it’s during the day, mostly mornings, it gives a stable income and for some reason most therapy clients don’t like to come over early anyway, I won’t be losing any business (worthy of some research…).
No, therapists are not fairy-tale creatures who’re always ZEN and smiling and jumping up and down from joy
I’m already in my Hitler invades the Soviet Union mood or Stonewall Jackson hits Hooker’s right flank at Chancellorsville, because of the paper work, but in the bus over to the train station where the photo booth is located, I come close to a me losing it scenario. I must say, I never really lose it. I’m almost incapable of ‘losing it’. By ‘it’, I mean my composure, my calm. I wish I could lose it a little more often.
I’m very nearly losing it though when I see lots of people blocking seats on the bus. At least four people have strategically selected a seat to keep the whole bench to themselves. This is a trend here in Bratislava. I have the feeling only Chinese public transportation offers a more grueling experience than Bratislava city busses. Taking busses in any other Slovak city is sort of fine. My cheeks get red hot, I feel pressure building under my skull and I take out of my I-pad to take pictures. I don’t give a shit that they notice, they should notice. If I were half the man Margaret Thatcher was (sort of my political antithesis, but what furor!) I’d give them all an ear-full. We’re all standing because of this little ‘make yourself comfortable, fuck all the rest’ habit. I’m sure they would move over if someone were to ask, but still.
When I finally jump into freedom of movement again, I walk over to the train station, ignoring several stunning beauties in delicate dresses -looking at them would only fire me up more- in search for a photo booth. Woe me, because when I do find it, three older people are standing in front of it with puzzled looks, like Aztecs who are laying eyes on a Spanish cannon for the first time in their lives.
At first I think the photo booth is malfunctioning. The old ladies phone the number they find printed on it. This leads nowhere. There’s one older guy inside and he’s taking ages. Is this a camera obscura? I wait and I wait and I wait, until I finally realize what’s going on: the old guy can’t find his pictures. They’ve been printed but he can’t locate them. Why? Because on the outside of the booth is written in very clear letters with an arrow pointing the way: GET YOUR PICTURES HERE. I hear the women observe: ‘But it’s like there is no place where the pictures can come out from!’ Oh, really? I poke the old guy’s pictures from the slit and hand them to him. I say ‘here you are’ in Slovak, but he doesn’t even thank me. To my great dismay I discover that they are not together and that each of them wants pictures. Oh, great. The second one to go in, also takes forever, repeatedly ajusting the seat. I want to scream: IT’S FINE!!! But I don’t of course, and eventually she gets her pictures.
A malfunction in your favor
One more to go. The third one looks up at me and says: ‘Sweet young man, could you help me with this? I’m a total nitwit when it comes to technology’. Right. Where’s my empathy? I’m making a living based on my number one resource: empathy, where is it now? My frustration dissipates and I go into my attentive, serving others autopilot. I don’t get why she can’t figure it out, because the booth explains everything very slowly and in great detail. But ok, I guess if you’ve never used a touchscreen then no instructions from a computerized voice will help. She hands me 4 euro. I select what she needs. I insert the coins. I notice the booth is satisfied with 3 euro and not the requested four euro. I give her the extra euro back. My empathy tells me she wants to give that euro to me, but she’s to ashamed to tell me, so she keeps it. I find the pictures to have too much light on them and offer to redo them, but she says it will be fine. This one at least thanks me profusely and from the heart. Great, if I wasn’t rushing, I’d be smiling.
I’m thanked for my patience by the universe, because now I have discovered the booth registers one euro coins as two euro coins. Hoezaa! I get two sets of passport pictures for 4 euro, instead of 8 euro. I’ll have plenty of pictures in reserve for a very long time to come, as I plan to maniacally avoid any unnecessary adminstrative hassle.
I need to take a bus back to whence I come from. This one is even more cramped, because it’s going to the airport. It’s so frigging cramped that I fear I won’t be able to get off at my stop. I barely manage to clamber through a sweathy jungle of human flesh and large, cumbersome luggage.
Heaven or Hell
The next bus, taking me to Scully-iova and Mulder-ovich from the Slovak alien police is quite empty and I calm down a bit. I notice to my surprise that I’ve finished reading ‘Nick & Norah’s infinite playlist’ while I was waiting. I’d much to be on an all night date like the couple in the book than doing what I’m doing now.
When I get out of this bus I again come to the conclusion that they couldn’t have hidden the alien police any better than right here. It’s something like an above ground atomic shelter or something. Maybe future archeologists will discover that the roof of the police station has something going on like the Nasca lines. Maybe if I flew a helicopter I would locate it immediately.
I arrive at 11h24 (I’ve left home somehwere between 8h30 and 9h, I don’t remember exactly). They are open until 12h. When I try to take a ticket to go and stand in line, the monitor reads, in Slovak: ‘there is no more time left to handle a new request’.
Right. I take one last picture of this grizzly place (judge for yourselves) and I take another bus, this time to the school.
I’m received with lots of smiles, good cheer, genuine warmth, encouragements, etc. And it’s not a problem that my paperwork is incomplete. They understand how hard it is to arrange all those things. You know, in Slovakia you can simply expect heaven or hell. There seems to be no in between. And perhaps that’s why I sort of fit in here, because I’m very similar.
Life hack of the century :: Let’s all just agree to simply strike up conversations with any stranger we feel chemistry with
My blood pressure has returned to a more earthly level, except for the effect of the truly ubiquitous long-legged nymphs. My wife says I’ll get used to those, but I’m 100 percent sure I never will. I saw lots of other guys ogling them (one to the point of almost missing his tram stop and his wife prodding him to the exit), so perhaps it just means I’m healthy. I saw one girl alone at a table in a book shop/coffee place ogling me or I must have been having one of those post-bureaucracy hallucinations. Again I thought how totally crappy our social interactions are arranged. I mean, should I have walked over? Is she an avid reader? Would we have lots to talk about? Why can’t she walk over? I sure as hell won’t kill her. Why isn’t there a form we can fill in and send via email to the Ministry of Social Interactions Between Two People Ogling Each Other, so that when it happens, we are notified on our cell phone that conversations is mutally desired and we can have a cup of tea, get to know a stranger, and forget about our daily stress for an hour or so? I tend to be cruel to myself and I walk out thinking: you fucking coward. At least start vlogging tonight to compensate for this craven act.
If I would be truly authentic I would have just gone over and asked questions or made some remark, but I didn’t. It’s just plain lame. And that’s probably why I have enjoyed reading a book about a spontaneous, unplanned date so much. Tanking ersatz beautiful experiences from a book, is one of my escapist and economically useless specialties.
Live an authentic day!
PS This post is about: Adminifrustration. Some public shaming. Old people hijacking a photo booth. Bratislava cattle bus. Slovak X-files. Sultry weather. Long-legged nymphs everywhere. Very sweet highschool principle. Longing to connect with strangers.