Saturday, April 29, 2006

On the night bus with Ludo

an Ústí trolleybus in the daytime

I was reminded of this story recently, which is surprising because I normally cannot recall things that happened 13 years ago.

Ludovic and I were out late one night in Ústí nad Labem and we had decided to take the night bus home rather than walk. It must have been a weekend because there were at least 20 other people waiting at the bus stop on the main square. The bus came on time, we all got on, and it seemed that Ludo and I would get home without misadventure.

But then the ticket inspectors got on and announced to the passengers that night buses were now more expensive than regular daytime buses, i.e. you had to have two bus tickets or a bus pass + a ticket. The ticket inspectors began checking all the people and, not surprisingly, no one had two tickets. The reason being that the inspectors’ announcement was the first anyone had heard of the new night bus premium.

I remember thinking in my naïve American way that when the inspectors realised that no one had known of the new two-ticket rule, that they would let us all go on our way with nothing more than a verbal warning and a reminder for next time. But, of course, that is not the way things work in the weird Czech world that I live in.

Next thing we knew, the bus pulled up at the police station and we were all herded inside. The thing I found the oddest was that none of the Czech passengers, i.e. everyone on the bus aside from me and Ludo, was arguing. They were going into the police station like sheep to the slaughter. There must have been about 30 people. Ludo didn’t want to argue either because he had already had several run-ins with police who thought he looked a bit too much like an illegal alien from Romania, and they never quite believed that his New Zealand passport had been issued by a real country.

Max, however, was slightly drunk, definitely belligerent and not in the mood to be treated like a criminal. I argued in what must have been slightly comedy Czech as I had not even been in the country for a year at the time and my language skills were still rather basic. My arguments, no matter how they sounded in Czech, were rational and logical. There had been no sign at the bus stop and no sign on the bus – how the hell were we to know that the night bus suddenly required two tickets? The ticket inspector I had accosted responded that it didn’t matter, that we knew now, and that we were all going to be processed and fined by the police. I said that was bullshit and that all they could do to us was inform us that we would need two tickets next time. I went on for a while longer than that, but you get the idea. The problem was that you cannot talk sense into people that have no sense.

The police and inspectors left us sitting there for a while and I told Ludo that I was going to leave. Ludo, always nervous and wary of trouble, argued with me and asked me to wait because there was no way he was going to walk out with me. But only a few minutes later, while I was fidgeting with impatience, a policeman came into the waiting area and told us we were all free to go. Ludo and I walked out and walked home.

We avoided the night buses for a while, but eventually we heard that the two-ticket requirement idea had been scrapped and it was safe to ride the night buses again armed with nothing more than a single ticket or a pass.

5 comments:

Ludovic said...

okay so not my most heroic moment ... Hey Cervena L got married the other day.

Max said...

Phew, I was worried you were going to tell me that I had got the story all wrong. Or at least some of the details. From this far away it's hard to know what's real and what your brain has made up.

Cervena/Mala L - yes, I know, she sent me the photos. Lots of things happen when you are away on the island, Ludo.

Ludovic said...

and K must be about to go into labour in London ... where are my babies?

Tits Malone said...

MM,

Mala L got married? You must send me the link I would love to send a note of congratulations!

As for Usti...your story bought back a flood of memories of the public transportation system. I especially liked the black flags flown on the front of buses to assure the general public the air quality was shit.

celinka said...

I had just arrived to Prague Nov 1997 and my mom and I were lost in the Mustek Metro. I noticed a heard of revisors right at the switch section and one of them approached me and showed me his badge which was so tiny I thought he was trying to sell me a souvenir of a communist pin. I told him no thank you and walked away, mumbling to my mom that I can't believe they are allowed to sell crap in the metro. I turn around and my mom was in the heard of revisors with her wallet out. I waltz over and told her (all in English) to put her wallet away and to save her money for this rediculous souvenir. She turned around with this look trying to explain to me that we got caught by the revisors. (There is no honour system in Quebec)We had our tickets we just didn't know we had to get them punched. So the revisor was repeating one word in German and I turned around and barked at him "look piss off we are not interested in buying anything! leave her alone! grrr" and grabbed my mom and started walking away. I heard the revisor bad mouthing us and he quickly caught others.
Yes I am a blonde. And we had no fine to pay.
COngratulations to Mala L.
Who is mala L?
Any confirmation of the marital status of a certain translator TM, Max and I have in common?