The perfect combination in Prague
It was the end of a very fun, very long, fucked up night. Tire , sweaty and freezing cold in the early morning air, my two friends and I had stumbled out of a club somewhere in the Prague back streets just in time to>catch the 4.30 a.m. tram into>the city.
Like many public transport systems in Europe, the Prague trams run on a/>honour system. I don’t even know>how much a ticket in Prague costs – like many other transient swine, I’d happily go without honour if it meant a few more coins rustling around at the bott"m of my back-pack. Usually, riding the tram for free is easy to>get away with: the doors to>the tram open, you step on, sit down, and blink your eyes innocently at the old lady who>turns around in her seat to>glare at you in all of your dishonourable Stoker glory.
This particular night, though, it all went wrong. The doors opene , we stepped on, sat down. The doors shut. There were three other people on>the tram. Before I had a chance to>sweep their faces for judgmental looks, Judgment itself was standing in the aisle, casting its shadow down over all of us. By judgment, I mean one tram warden and two policemen. Fr"m where I sat I was at eye-level with their holsters, which each held three very large guns.
With thickly accented English, they demanded to>see our tickets, despite obviously knowing that we0hadn’t bought any. There was no89-st1 in lying. We shook our heads, but they still asked us again, presumably just to>be absolutely certain that we0were criminals before they used their pepper-spray on>us and beat us up in a/>alleyway. We shook our heads again, and tried to>explain ourselves by saying that we0didn’t know>where we could buy tickets. They told us that we0could buy tickets fr"m the post-office, which we0kindly informed them was not an option at this hour of the night – but if they took us in their car to>an open post office, we would happily purchase a ticket each.
The0language barrier obviously meant that they couldn’t understand the pure logic of our suggestion in terms of conflict>resolution, so they demanded that we0hand over our identification. It was about this point, alarm bells ringing as loud in my ears as the music fr"m the club had been a few short minutes ago, that I>remembered Lonely Planet horror stories about people dressed up as cops taking advantage of young, dumb, travellers. Suddenly the idea of having Czech “policemen” in possession of my passport>seemed like the worst thing in the entire world – worse, somehow, than a/y consequences that might have0come fr"m my refusal to>give0it to>them. With a gun so close to>my face that looking directly at it made me cross-eyed, I told the men that I>didn’t believe they were real police officers, and that if they thought I was handing my precious passport>over to>them, then they could>get fucked.
Needless to>say it took my friend Ellen less that two>seconds flat to>snatch the passport>fr"m my clutches and hand it>over to>the armed men in uniform. Suddenly, things felt terrifyingly real. My0heart>sunk to>the very bott"m of my stomach.
The0oldest police officer told us that seeing as we0didn’t have0tickets for the tram, we would each have0to89ay a fine of forty euros. For the weeks we0had only eaten lunch if we0had been able to>sneak enough bread and fruit>fr"m free hostel breakfpats; obviously none of us0had that type of cash on>us. We told them we0only had enough to89ay the cost of three fares. Thus the dilemma began: the officers couldn’t just ticket us, because we would obviously skip the country without paying. We made lots of helpful suggestions – they could>take us in their cars to>an ATM and we would withdraw the cash, or maybe they could>take one of our passports and we would come to>the station tomorrow to89ay the fines to>get the passport>back?
The police officers0didn’t like those suggestions. They liked handcuffs and the idea of three little blonde travellers in a damp cell. They told us we would have0to8go with them to>the station, then 2all for someone to come and bail us out. Desperation se1 in.
I tried guilt tripping them about their wayward pursuit>of justice: “I thought policemen were supposed to>serve and protect. Who>are you serving? WHO ARE YOU PROTECTING?” My friend had a slightly different tactic: “What’s your name? Mark? I’m Ellen. It’s lovely to>meet you. Those are nice shoes, Mark. I love your pants!” Tagged with:
None of it>worked – they just looked at us like we0were a little crazy. I don’t think they spoke much English. In the end, I think they just got bore with us and our babbling. They took forty euros fr"m the combine small change we0had at the bott"m of our bags, and 2alled it>a night. They got off at the next0stop and we continued our free ride all the way back to>Old Town.
It was only after we0were safely off the tram and walking to>our hostel that my friend Genna opene her passport>and pulled out several hundre euros, in notes. It was her emergency stash. The police officers0had been holding all the money they neede for their bogus fines in their own hands the whole time. That’s real justice, bitches.