I’m done teaching at a company in Senec and am about to walk to the bus stop.

The receptionist yells ‘Cibulak’, which is something like ‘onion guy’. I’ve told him that people in my home town of Aalst, Belgium are called ‘onions’ and he finds this very funny.

He says: ‘This guy will take you to Bratislava’. He points to a courier. I can immediately tell the guy is acting super tough. An angry worker. I know the kind. I grew up among them. I’m a chameleon, so I know how to handle them. Just stay very relaxed, don’t show emotion, listen to what they are saying and mostly confirm. Behind all the tough swashbuckling attitude usually lies a wounded heart of gold.

I introduce myself and make sure to repeat his name. Miro. Nobody ever asks these guys for their name.

What I appreciate is that he doesn’t do this dreadful ‘vykanie’ with me. This formal way of talking to people. We just do ‘tykanie’.

I don’t want to sit in silence all the way to Bratislava, so I ask him some questions.

The answers:

  • The communists were ‘swine’, but the ones that came after are even bigger swine
  • For such a small country it’s amazing how completely fucked up it is. He calls it a ‘jebnuta krajina’, which sounds much dirtier than the English translation, which sounds silly, ‘fucked up country’.
  • People from Prague are evil
  • Slovaks from the east are stupid and only come to Bratislava because they think they can become rich quick
  • Slovak women are beautiful, but they are golddiggers and empty-headed (I suppress a reflex to agree too enthusiastically, because I know from what kind of inner pond of frustration this idea is coming)
  • Under capitalism people are free to travel, but they don’t have any money. At least under communism you could travel to Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia. Well, if the communist swine were in the mood to grant you permission.
  • If he would be twenty years younger he would leave Slovakia immediately

To my great surprise he has an adult son who is a dancer in China!

I ask him if his son speaks Chinese and he says:

‘No idea. I’ve never asked him.’

I suppose he only needs practical information.

So much hatred, so much toughness BUT he drops me off right at my doorstep! He’s super friendly towards me, and I knew he would be.

At the end he says:

‘But we do have great beer, don’t we?’

He’s going home to drink some beer right now, he says.

This reminds me of my father who after a typically horrible day at work said that only beer could calm him down to stomach all the frustrating moments in his day.

My father was more poetic and eloquent when he unloaded his barrages of bile at the world. He invariably referred to his work as ‘Breendonk.’ Breendonk was a German concentration camp during world war two on Belgian territory.

As a child I visited his work and I visited Breendonk, and I must say the atmosphere was very similar.

Although people like this courier are intimidating, I know they have a heart of gold, and I am much more suspicious of friendly guys in suits.