One More

If you are traveling home after midnight on trams, there’s a 97% chance you’ll be at Lazarská at some point. On the night tram schedule, Lazarská seems to be the center of the tram universe. It is also home to a pub that is hidden in plain sight. It’s right on the main road, it even has a sign. And though I have been there a few hundred times, my eyes still scroll past it a couple of times before locking in on it. It’s like trying to see the hidden image in one of those hologram paintings. We call it the Lazarská Joint.

I find myself at the Lazarská Joint in the same situation. It’s always late (often after midnight), so all of the other pubs in the city of Prague have been shut down under the time-obsessive tyranny of dictatorial waiters. I am usually with my buddy L. And despite the fact that the pub I’d been at has closed, we have decided that instead of going home, we just need one more. The Lazarská Joint is the “one more” place.

It’s Tuesday. Heading to the Lazarská Joint ensures that the next day will be awful. I know it. L knows it. But we are too engaged in conversation or having too much fun, or we are simply not willing to give up the ghost of the night to turn it in quite yet. This is around the time L comes out with proverbs like “in for a penny in for a pound” or “might as well be hanged as a sheep for a lamb.” And this is all it takes to talk me into one more, thus rendering my next day an achy period of vast confusion.

But at about 12ish a.m. when we find a table at the Lazarská Joint none of that matters yet.

It looks like a place that should be at the intersections of a night tram connection hub. It’s dirty, dark, and drab, the clientele match the décor. They hunch over beers, mourn the day cigarettes were banned in the country’s pubs. They talk in slur, the universal language of those who’ve had one too many but want one more. The key for the toilet hangs on a rope from a hook behind the bar. One of the urinal’s pipes does not connect so urine splashes onto the feet of a newcomer. The barman is as tipsy as all of us, his pupils attempt to focus in on us, you can almost hear the whirr of a working camera eye, as if he was artificial intelligence in a 1990s EPCOT exhibit. Drunk barmen always give me pause, as if they are cheating on an unspoken universal agreement.

Nevertheless, we heroically hold onto the night for an hour or so until the all too awful moment of reckoning that it’s time to head home. It’s Tuesday after all, the next day is busy. In one last moment of mercy, L decides to hail a cab. It will get us home faster, thus cutting out the unpleasant ride on a night tram. A ride home on a night tram during the week is cruel, it gives you time to consider what you’ve done and forces you to face reality in a metal cabin with other drunks. It’s like doing the walk of shame but at night.

There are two cabs parked on the road out front. We peer into the windows, but nobody’s there. Night trams wait in a queue, others barrel down Spálená, nobody in them looks happy. The driver comes out of the Lazarská Joint, points us into the cab. We are halfway through the seven minute ride home when I say to L:

“He’s drunk.”

“Drunker than we are,” L corrects.

Having a drunk cab driver is far more off-putting than having a drunk barman. It’s not only odd, it’s somehow otherworldly, meta, backwards, like a National Lampoon skit in real life. Comparable occupational vortexes are when one’s lawyer gets sent to prison or a world-famous pilot dies in a plane crash while a passenger.

I do event math. Our cab driver came out of the Lazarská Joint, he’s a one more guy too. After the initial laugh of comprehension, I become genuinely worried. I stare at him as he maneuvers backroads. He’s hammered. No GPS. One eye open. Chops sloppily chomping open and closed as if tasting the beer we interrupted by pulling him into service. It becomes less otherworldly and more a stab in the back. We never met each other before this moment, but we trusted him to get us home safely. It’s the unspoken agreement between cab driver and a drunken passenger. My faith in late night humanity is shaken.

When we get to my house the cab driver pays us 200 Koruna. L (for some reason) informs him that we should be paying him, not vice versa. He nods in surprise, his eyes blink in happiness. What a delightful condition, he must think. L gives him 200 Koruna and that motherfucker probably went back to the Lazarská Joint and used it for one more.

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