A Decade in the Land of the Spatially Challenged

zombies on the orange lineLike most zombie enthusiasts, I do fully expect the apocalypse to come. I have done some mild preparation. There is a stash of coconut chocolate bars behind my bathroom mirror, a box of golf pencils in my front drawer, and a shoehorn that could cut through a skull.

Still, unlike my paranoid zombie friends, I am not worried about the imminent apocalypse, and that’s because I live in the Czech Republic.

The Czechs excel in various areas: making pilsners, frying things that are already unhealthy, eating bread, and dressing in daily life the way others dress for ironic theme parties.

And then there’s getting in the way.

Since moving here I have come to despise those who come and complain about everything in the Czech Republic. This is a talent championed by the British and Americans expatriates in this country. However, in this case I just have to let loose or my brain is going to explode.

Let’s just say it: There is no group of people on Earth more adept at getting in the way, meandering aimlessly, tripping up others, or causing them to maneuver around them, than the Czechs.

It is as frustrating as it is astounding.

The Czech Republic is the only place on Earth where one 87-year-old woman can take up an entire 12 foot wide sidewalk. People walk out of shops and stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Just stop. When the typical Czech gets a text message while walking along the street, they stop dead and check the message, never once considering the possibility that someone might be walking behind them, or might have to walk around them. I have come dangerously close to accidental intercourse several times in this country.

If I were ever running from a street gang I’d just get a few 75-year-old babičkas (grandmothers) in between me and them and then there’d be no reason to run. The threat gone, I’d probably just have a sandwich and watch the frustration mount. And it would mount, because in beautiful irony, Czechs can’t stand it when something is in their way.

This is pandemic in this country. People have conversations in busy doorways of shops and businesses, large groups of people congregate on walking paths and sidewalks. The slack-jawed youth deems it necessary to sit on steps (yes, the things you walk up to go from one level of a building to another), seemingly impervious to the flinging knees and glares of hotdog wielding teachers.

But this ability to get in the way is probably most noticeable when it comes to public transport. Though Czechs use public transport every day, they seem baffled by the operational pattern of first letting people off the tram and then getting on the tram. Getting off the tram or metro in Prague is like trying to break through a defensive line of briefcase carrying mullets, strollers, and tiny old women dragging checkered bags on wheels.

And getting on the tram is no better. For some reason or another, the Czechs feel that once they are inside the tram, they no longer have to move inward. So after they step onto a tram, they stop and stand in front of the door. At peak hours, a tram car carries 87 standing passengers, 69 of which are standing in front of the nearest door. The rest of them are hovering above empty seats. Yes, you read that right: Hovering. Above. Empty. Seats. The nationwide rule of the Czech: Be in the way.

Oh, and it’s not just adults. Dogs and children have been trained to entangle themselves in your legs. Čits (Czechs in training) meander into one’s way like tiny, drooling drunken sailors. Dogs consistently find themselves between your legs, on their way to dump little land mines on the ground so as to get in your way after they’ve gone. Even the automatic doors in this country hesitate too long and slow your step. Elevator doors are shutting on people and in front of people. It’s a nationwide conspiracy!

I love my adoptive country, and the Czechs, spatially challenged though they are. Well, I will love them more tomorrow, when I have a pilsner, and I am contemplating my absolute safety when the zombie apocalypse comes.

But until then, I wish these people would get out of my fucking way!

  1. #1 by HL on May 30, 2013 - 12:53 pm

    This title is brilliant, I wonder who came up with the proper wording for it… :p

    Tiny old women dragging bags on wheels? Tiny? All grandmas I’ve ever seen here are either wider than they are tall, or look like mummified hookers.
    Also: Try riding your bike anywhere in Prague if you’re suicidal.

  2. #2 by Kelly on June 5, 2013 - 5:38 am

    A boyfriend from a long time ago, when I lived in Australia would always get so frustrated with the Asians who lived in Sydney. When I asked why he shouted “They stand in doorways!” Ever since then I can’t help but notice constantly trying to get around Chinese people in vestibules. Not that I am always in a vestibule with a Chinese person, but nine times out of ten if I am, I’m two stepping back and forth trying to anticipate their next move.

    Also, living in New York sounds very much like living in Prague. I have to breath deep and remember to blink my eyes when I’m on an escalator and there are people on the left who aren’t walking!

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