A wonderful weekly custom I have taken up is my Friday night swim. I meet one of my best friends at the pool, we swim for half an hour, steam room for ten minutes, and then wander the hundred yards to the nearest bar, which happens to be my local. We while away a Friday night with loose muscles and a growing buzz.

Tonight, I am a bit less mellow. A woman is telling me that I do not have enough points on my card to get into the pool. The card is a “three month” card, which might lead one to think that it gains one entrance to a pool (or a gym or a club) for three months, but it’s not. This “three month” card only means it’s valid for three months. Each three month card has 283 points, and during each visit one is charged 52 points for 40 minutes and 63 points for 50 minutes. Since I am never there longer than 45 minutes or so, the point system above that does not apply.

Now, if you are prone to doing math in your head, go ahead and start working 52 and 63 into 283 and see how well it fits. If I visit five times and stay beneath the 40 minutes, I am charged 260 points out of a possible 283. If I visit four times at under 50 minutes, I get charged 252 points out of a possible 283. If the five visits break down into three visits of 40 minutes and two visits of 50 minutes, then it’s 282 points.

But the real problem is that tonight I have 37 remaining points that I am not allowed to use. I make the mistake of asking if I can just pay the remaining 15 points in Koruna, but if you have ever been in the Czech Republic, you know that this sensible manner of handling this situation is not only out of the question, it is frankly laughable.

In descending order of importance, the Czechs adore setting and upholding policies that don’t make sense, loopholes that allow them to not give you stuff, and points. Man do they love applying points to stuff. Grocery stores offer a point system, though to what beneficial end has never been made clear to me. At least once a month I get an email from my mobile phone company or my bank telling me about all of the points I have accrued over the months. At the same time, I have never once reaped a reward from these points. I have never been given anything for free, never been given credit, and I have never even been given a toaster.

But what I do keep getting is more points.

While attendance is not mandatory in courses in our department, if a student comes to 9 of the 12 classes in a semester he is awarded 4 points. If he comes to 10 that number is 6 points. All the way up to the full 12 classes and a total of 10 points. Unlike the points at the grocery store or the mobile phone company, our points actually get you something. We add the points accrued onto a student’s test – but only if they fail the exam.

So in order to get something for your points, you have to come to 9 classes and still not retain enough language to pass the course. If you pass the exam, you do not get your points. I guess they sort of disappear into the Zone of Unused Things, a great portion of which is made up of points accrued through Czech institutions. This policy made sense when we set it as most of the courses in the foreign language department are pass-fail, so you got your points only if you needed the get from fail to pass.

Now, however, that has changed a bit. In their final semester, students are given a grade based on their performance on the test and, if they have attended enough classes, the points. But, again, only if they fail. So instead of (reasonably) awarding points to people who have both attended enough classes and passed the exam, we are only giving points to those who have attended enough classes and managed to fail the exam. Imagine two students who have attended all of the classes, one fails with a 55% and the other passes with a 65%. The one who got the 55% will now have an equal score to the other because the other will not move up to 75%, which means they will not get the 2 (B) they have earned, but rather the 3 (C) we are keeping them at.

The reason for not changing the policy is: “that’s the policy.” One might point out that not only had we set the policy, but that the policy was only in effect in our department. Additionally, one could mention that we were the ones enforcing the policy. And then one could understand all at once the heady rush that comes with wielding the power of a petty functionary in a bureaucratic mouse maze. And then you would have to set about finding points on the test that make up the points they are not getting for coming to enough classes, but failing to fail the class.

I try to explain this to the woman at the pool, but if I made no headway changing the policy set by the place where I work, there is no chance it’s going to sway anything here. I give up and give her the 100 Koruna I need to get an hour at the pool. I plan on making up the points by luxuriating in the pool and steam room a bit longer, really enjoying my hour. But the pool is packed that swimming in it is a game of lateral Frogger. With a concentrated effort, I pee in the pool in silent, ammonic rebellion. The steam room is not steamy either. I think it has just been cleaned, so after a few minutes of just standing around with a bunch of naked dudes in a warm room, we shower and walk to the local pub, which offers Becherovka instead of any point system. I still wonder if I’m going to get a toaster from my bank.

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