Temporary population: roughly 12,492,593.
Time: 3:17 pm, July 20, 2014.
Goal: Flight BA198 leaves at 4:30 pm. from Gate B32 in Terminal 5.
Dilemma: Gate closes at 4 pm.
There are people everywhere. And though they are in all shapes, colors, and sizes, their two unifying factors are that they stop without warning and they drag along a suitcase on wheels. I sprint ahead to dash between two of them, just barely sneaking through before they crash their shoulders together. Still, I am through, but my troubles are far from over.
I try to read a far off sign as I jog along, but sweat has filled my eyes. I hanky away the sweat and continue my mantra: Terminal 5, B32, Terminal 5, B32, Terminal 5, B32.
Admittedly, this mantra is at times interrupted by Tourette’s-like outbursts of frustration which stretch the limits of my creative lexicon to its grandest degree. Fortunately, most of the people around me are too busy shuffling along and listening to Robin Thicke to notice.
In the distance, I catch a glimpse of the magical phrase: Terminal 5. Yes! Thwarting my advance, however, is something of a conglomeration of obstacles you might see Indiana Jones negotiate…if Indy was trying to catch a transatlantic A330 in Heathrow, that is.
My morning run is a crowded experience today. There are people walking, running, cycling, and rollerblading in order to enjoy the nice weather. I pass dozens of people. If I had to guess the two main facial expressions I am greeted with, they would be terror and confusion.
For today, I am singing. In Mary Magdalene’s Mezzo-Soprano. Loudly. Very loudly.
Folks, if you have eyeballs and exist, you look at Facebook a couple of times a week. And if you look at Facebook, you have surely noticed the Facebook enlightenment. The Facebook enlightenment is this trend of posting enormously inspirational quotes, memes, and status updates. There are too many to list. These often focus on one’s empowerment, worth, drive, dedication, and self-awareness. If you were to judge people’s lives from their Facebook accounts alone, you would think that we live in a society of highly philosophical, successful, and aware people.
But we don’t.
I spend all year barking at students about technology in one way or another. I am either shouting at them to stop reading Facebook or Twitter and to pay attention. Or I am groaning about their lack of touch with the real world in lieu of the virtual one.
And yet, in my first three days in one of the most beautiful natural areas of Europe, I spend the entire time on the computer in the chalet’s restaurant. I did look out of the window a lot. I looked out the window and sighed, too. And when the other people ran out to look at the rainbow, I even took a picture through that window.
This morning as I walk home from the shop, I bump into my favorite neighbor. He is a friendly old man, a retired gynecologist who is always out in the morning walking his dog. Even if he was rude to me he would be my favorite neighbor by default, since he is the only one who speaks to me or acknowledges my existence.
Still, as I approach the man, I review the area around us with extreme caution and suspicion. Nothing. Everything is fine. So far. The man speaks to me in Czech and I work my hardest to keep up the conversation. We talk about the weather and the neighbors and the fact that the summer is moving along in warm fashion.
And then I am attacked by ants.
I plan everything. I plan the amount of toast I’ll have at breakfast, the schedule of my weekend sitcom viewings, and my month in book genres. I love reviewing schedules, itineraries, and plans. If you hand me a map or a schedule, I am in organizational heaven.
I’m really worst with holidays. I plan them to the minute. I have planned bathroom trips and snack breaks in my holidays. Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine, but I am not married.
This time, however, I thought I’d go different. Tomorrow I leave for Ireland and while I would usually have planned every single stop, every single town, and every single pub, I have elected to not follow this idea. Perhaps this is because I have been there twice before, perhaps not.
In any event, I am filled with terror.
But the Internet is nothing if not a place to learn a hundred thousand random bits of information you never knew, never needed to know, or never knew you needed to know. This week has been especially fruitful in the learning department, and I thought I could share a bit of what I have learned on the Internet in the last week.
Though nowhere near a scientist, I have always loved scientific questions. And there is no better place to indulge your half-assed curiosity than where? Right. The Internet. In the science department, I have learned what happens when you crack an egg underwater. I learned what happens when you fill an anthill with molten aluminum. I learned what happens when you – strictly for the good of science – drive a remote-controlled toy car through a pride of lions or jump into a pool of diet coke wearing a suit made of Mentos.
I am reading a western by Larry McMurtry and have found what I always find – westerns make me itchy. Oh, not itchy in the venereal disease kind of way, but itchy to take an adventure.
In this book, The Wandering Hill, a random group of trappers and explorers travel in the American West in the 1830s. The story is lousy with adventure. There are battles with lances, bows, and hatchets. There are people getting eaten by bears, bitten by snakes, and kicked by horses. There are lots of merciless clashes between tribes of Native Americans.
And as I enjoy this book from the safety of my couch, house, and routine, it awakens the dormant adventurer in me. That part that just wants to put on a backpack and walk to India or hike to Iceland. I look out my window at the trees and the river and imagine a far more interesting life for myself.
For me, it’s always been television detectives. There is nothing quite as fun as watching a TV sleuth figure out a murder or catch a bad guy.
I think the whole thing started with Magnum P.I. Thursday nights between 8-9 were spent watching Thomas Magnum run around Honolulu chasing down thugs and ticking off Higgins. In college, Magnum was replaced by Columbo and Rockford, who I found in the wonderful land known as Rerunia. They were two totally different detectives: one was sly, clever, and purposefully disarming, the other rough, tough and gritty.
A thousand years later, aka 2010, Sherlock Holmes joined the ranks of my favorite TV detectives. I’d read all the stories, I found that a bowl of popcorn and the tiniest prospect of actually being able to deduce what was going on added to my enjoyment. While I have always loved Sherlock Holmes stories, they aren’t really detective stories since the reader has no way of figuring out the plot until Holmes reveals it all to the exasperated Watson on the last page.
Elementary, Watson, as long as you knew that in Urdu the man’s cousin’s dog’s name backwards reads bacon. Adding to that, of course, that bacon was the favorite breakfast meat of this man’s butler’s sister’s husband Smedrick, who resides in a place called Florida. Then it’s all clear…
But I digress. Back to detectives.
In Czech, in order to convey that something is all Greek to you, you say that it’s a Spanish Village (to je Španělská vesnice). You warn friends not to live in the past by telling them that you can’t step into the same river twice (Dvakrát nevstoupíš do stejné řeky). And you show your preferences for girls with booty by saying that a girl without an ass is like a week without a Sunday (holka bez prdela je jako týden bez neděle).
So today, as I root through an old bookshelf and come across an American – Czech Vulgarism Dictionary I leap for joy. It was a gift some years ago from some students and it goes straight into my most sacred reading room (aka: bathroom).
Moments later, as I sit on the throne for my inaugural perusal, I find that I have never heard half of these idioms. I need to use them and force them into my lexical toolbox. I spend the day teaching high schoolers about American history and English, and the whole time these idioms are pestering me in the back of my head.
By the time Collin calls and asks if I want a beer, I am tired and grumpy. I haven’t slept well in a deuce of nods on a backseat, but I go anyway. I haven’t seen Collin in a deuce of haircuts and since today is the day that the eagle shits I have some disposable cash.
I meet him at a beer garden in Žižkov.
People of Earth, I declare that I am a reasonably easygoing and friendly dude. But holy mother, you guys are good at pushing those limits of reason with your irritating habits and actions. And every once in a while a man has just got to get it off his chest how annoying you can all be. So, if your actions or habits resemble anything on this list, please consider changing your behavior.
Every day I go shopping. And every day this happens. A man brings up 12 items, puts them down on the counter, and the cashier rings them through. The man watches. When the total comes, the man looks surprised, and then he begins looking for money. Once he has searched for coins and my psychopathic rage is hovering up there with the Hubble, that’s when he asks for a bag and starts bagging his groceries.
I know. It’s astounding. But, my dear Czech friend, you have to come to terms with the fact that every time – yes, every time – you purchase things at a shop, the cashier will ask you for money. It’s remarkable, I know. How dare they! But the fact of the matter is, when you look stupefied by this action, I want to shove a bowling ball up your asshole and go for a 7-10 split.
So, like the Boy Scouts of America, be prepared!