Spring Fever

praguespringI am pumping myself up before class. I’m imagining the scene, the human circus I’ll be greeted with when I enter the room. I prepare my opening line and get ready to make them laugh before lowering the boom with some grammar.

Tonight, I enter the classroom expecting to enter the multicultural zoo that I walk into every Tuesday, but there’s nothing. Not a soul. I put my coursebooks down and look at my watch. Two minutes, I dare to dream.

I decide to take a moment’s pause. At first I focus on my breathing, which stops the minute I hyperventilate. So instead I look out the window at picturesque Jarov, which sits on the outskirts of Prague. Jarov is not exactly the Prague that shows up on postcards or on decorative plates.

There’s the car dealership across the road, the Kaufland next door, the tram depot loop beneath. There are the stop lights along Koněvova Street which runs up into Žižkov, and construction workers stepping into the herna (casino) bar across the road. I can hear the car horns going and the people who got drunk too early in the day shouting at each other. An ambulance is speeding along.

Above it all, there’s a blue sky breaking into the light gray of dusk. It’s framed in the horizon with orange pink. Two things instantly become clear. Spring is springing in Prague and I am not going to have any students tonight.

A Prague spring is something marvelous. It’s a warm sun, cool shade, fresh air. It’s bright mornings, cobalt blue late afternoons, and evening suns that stream into your windows warming your belly as though you were a cat. A Prague spring means walking along the Vltava, Italian tourists, and drinking beer outside. It means getting yelled at for opening windows on the trams. A Prague spring is enjoyed so much more since it comes at the end of a winter full of short gray days, long dark nights, and ample suicide fantasies.

A Prague spring’s onset is evidenced also by a palpable mood lift across the city. People’s faces go from winter yellow to spring pale. Soon they might even be flesh-colored or tan. Nobody still smiles on the trams or in the streets, but as spring breaks there’s less open hostility between fellow Praguers. In Prague time slows down in the spring. People take it easier, and take things less seriously than they do in the winter. It’s as though the whole week becomes one big Thursday afternoon, people are eyeing up the weekend, or in this case, the slower summer months just around the corner.

It’s for this reason that I know I’ll have no students tonight. It was the same in Pittsburgh. Every year we suffered through a terrible Pittsburgh winter, so when the spring weather finally broke we took a small holiday from responsibility. We’d sit on the Cathedral of Learning lawns or on our porch and drink beer and listen to music. We’d good off and snicker at the thought of an empty classroom.

It’s for that reason that I can’t really blame the students for skipping tonight’s class. Though some are being lazy, the regular attendees are probably out enjoying the first taste of spring air and the spring mood. If I weren’t being paid to be in this room, I’d probably be in a garden somewhere reading and sipping on a Gambrinus.

And as the weather is supposed to be nicer tomorrow, I better get ready to forgive Wednesday’s students as well.

What signifies the onset of spring to you?

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