The Day of the Broken Zipper

I’m standing at the urinal, confronted with the usual conundrum: Do I pee the Bonanza theme song or do I play the urinal translation game with the advertisement on the wall in front of me? I have already screwed up my urinary rhythm so I opt for the game.

Urinal advertisement translation is a self-invented (and until now, esoteric) game which involves combining the 80% understood words with the 20% unknown words and the weird advertisement picture and making an unusual scenario out of it all.

The girl is sitting on a bed chatting on a webcam with a boy who is somewhere in Asia. There are cartoon dialogue bubbles coming from their mouths. I create a dialogue that would, let’s just say, not thrill any nun I ever had in grade school.

My naughty avenue of interpretation is not totally my fault. Webcams are impossible to place in conversation without sounding lecherous and propositional.

“We can chat online, I have a webcam.”

I don’t care if Kermit the Frog says this to Mother Teresa – in my mind, someone’s getting naked. I suppose it’s all about jumping to immediate conclusions.

I blame movies.

I jump to conclusions every day. A man with a black eye is a brawler; a woman with a black eye is the wife of a brawler. A man with a shaved head is either an athlete, bald as a cue ball or a Russian mobster. A facial tattoo means that person did time in prison.

A mouth sore is up to your imagination.

My translation game ends when my hydro-attack of the urinal cake is completed. However, returning the zipper to its upright position happens with too much ease. My zipper is broken.

It’s hard enough to credibly explain a broken zipper in English, but I am lacking key Czech vocabulary to describe my issue to a woman on the tram or a police officer.

Pulling my sweater down as far as possible, I leave the restaurant. I get on the tram, which is packed with an inordinate amount of females today. Every one of them notices my shifty eyes, embarrassment-reddened cheeks and my backpack perched in front of my happy zone. I am sure that I appear to be a clumsy, red-cheeked fool with an unhealthy preoccupation with his backpack.

It’s pouring rain and so I duck into the pub at the bottom of my hill to wait out the storm. I grab a corner table in the back room, order a beer and take out my notebook and Kindle. I finally relax a bit; in the typical Czech pub you are left alone, and it’s a perfect afternoon for a beer, reading and writing. I recline into the Civil War and block out the world.

About an hour later a man asks to sit at my table and I motion that it’s fine. He sits. I catch a glimpse of him a few minutes later. He is wearing a raincoat and has beady, mouse-like eyes. His hair is cut in a painfully unattractive manner – as though he uses a one-size clipper on his whole head. His fingers are diddling with a cigarette pack and his nose and eyebrows jump in nervous tics.

Raincoat, twitchy, beady eyes – Conclusion: this man is a registered sex offender.

He looks at me and I nod hello and go off to the bathroom where I engage in neither the Bonanza game nor the ad translation game.

I get back to the table and the RSO smiles at me and makes a gesture with his eyes. Oh for Christ’s sake, what does he want? I smile back and stick my face in my book, hoping he’ll ignore me. He does not.

“Excuse me,” he says in English. “Can I come and chat with you?”

“Oh, hm…no, I’m sorry. I want to read.”

“Oh, ok. Well, your zipper is down.”

“Um…yes, I know.”

He gives me a weird look and nods his head. He’s hitting on me! I look into my book and avoid contact with him for the rest of his stay at my corner table. A moment later, thankfully, he shuffles away from the table and leaves.

I decide to leave an hour later and as I’m passing through the front room I notice the shifty raincoat-clad RSO at a table in the front room. He is drinking and chatting with two guys. When he notices me he whispers something to them and they all look in my direction. I leave the pub with my backpack attached to the front of my trousers.

I want to turn and shout – It’s broken, I am not a registered sex offender! Don’t jump to conclusions you mousey bastard!

But instead I hum the Bonanza theme and step into the rain.

  1. #1 by Andrew Renfro on October 24, 2011 - 7:11 pm

    At least it was broken. The worst is when it works so well that it zips a small piece of fabric from your tucked-in shirt resulting in a 1in by 3in white flag at groin height that cannot be removed without both breaking the zipper AND ripping the shirt. If there is a semantic opposite to “simple pleasures in life”, this would be an example of it.

  2. #2 by Emma on October 25, 2011 - 9:24 am

    i broke the button on my jeans once, in the middle of the work day, so no time to go home. i had to go to the haberdasher’s and explain that i needed a safety-pin. except i don’t know the czech for safety-pin. actually i’m not even sure that safety-pin is the american word for safety-pin…. anyway, after a couple of attempts at drawing one, i eventually had to lift my tshirt and expose my gaping jeans and black lacey underwear to the shop assistant and the five babickas standing in line behind me. not my most fabulous day.

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