I’ve now been in Berlin for 2 days, but essentially everything that has occurred since involves either extreme debauchery or lying near-comatose in a dark room. So since the former is inappropriate for something my mother reads, and the latter just plain boring, I figured I’d quickly relay the a little story from the journey here.
After a film festival car drove me the two hours from Karlovy Vary to Prague (and, oddly enough – my fellow passenger was a fellow Canuck; and not just any Canuck: endlessly talented doc filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal), I had three hours to kill in and around the Prague train station. My initial plan was to do some brief Prague sightseeing, but the festival burnt me out pretty bad so I decided just to stay put. I bought a Berlin Lonely Planet Guide from the train station’s book store (which already had a Czech-language biography of Michael Jackson with 1958-2009 on the cover), and headed to what seemed like the station’s most appealing cafe. I sat down in at a corner table, and this guy that was sitting at the bar turned around and just stared at me. He was wearing shorts and a bright red shirt, and had a huge gash on his forehead that seemed to still be bleeding.
His introduction was: “Whooooo are you?” In an Australian accent.
I didn’t really know what else to do, so I briefly humored him and then told him I had to do some work, to which he suggested “but schooooool is out for the summer.” He was obviously extremely drunk. And it was 11am. He left me alone for maybe 10 minutes as he demanded the incredibly patient waitstaff to bring him their most expensive bottle of champagne. I was the closest other customer to the action, so the waitstaff would occasionally look over at me with these “can you believe this guy” expressions. When they finally brought him the champagne, he demanded I come over to the bar and have a glass of champagne with him. I declined, again insisting I had work to do.
“Do you wanna know what kinda work I do,” was his response… “I bet you do!”
He went on to tell me he wrote children’s plays and was touring Europe to learn about children’s dramatic arts in various countries. Apparently, this also meant a pit stop at a Prague gay strip club the night prior where the bouncers had given him that gash on his head when they got in an argument about the way he had treated the strippers. They made him leave, without his bag that included a “rough sketch” of his latest play about a pig who doesn’t want to grow up.
Again, I humored him. And then went back to pretending I was working. For ten minutes he ignored me, going around to everyone in the cafe demanding that they have a glass of his champagne. The waitstaff stayed patient until he went to a table that had a father and daughter, he maybe 50 and she maybe 12. He told the daughter that she was “lame” when she rejected his champagne offer, and then the father yelled something at him at Czech. It calmed down pretty quickly care of the waitstaff, who still had shockingly not kicked him out. He went back and sat at the bar, and I nervously waited for his next harassment.
It came maybe 30 seconds later. He filled a second glass of champagne, walked over to my table, and slammed it down in front of me.
“Drink!” He yelled.
I told him no. Then he yelled at me: “What kind of stupid little twink turns down a free glass of champagne!” Which resulted in both my decision to halt all communication with him, and the attention of pretty much everybody in the cafe. He walked back over to the bar for maybe 5 seconds, then turned around and walked over to me, and poured the champagne all over my luggage. Thankfully, this resulted in the waitstaff finally telling him to leave. After watching him put on a little show (particularly to one of the male waiters, who he told he was “waiting for him to get off work so they could go have a night on the town”), he actually did.
I had maybe 25 minutes until my train left, so I got my bill. After watching him in action with Drunk Aussie, I figured my waiter (the one who D.A. had been “waiting for”) deserved the rest of my Czech money so I gave him one of the better tips I’ve ever left. I walked out in the train station and noticed that my train wasn’t anywhere on the departures board. And then I realized I was in the wrong fucking train station. Prague has two, and my train to Berlin left from the other one. How I did not realize this very explicit information written right on my ticket at any point before that makes me sad inside.
So I ran back to the cafe, where my waiter had spoke really good English (I speak no Czech whatsoever, even after 12 days in the country). I showed him my ticket and he was explained to me that this was a different train station a few miles away. He saw I looked horrified, and explained me how to get there via subway. I still looked horrified, so he physically walked with me to the subway, bought me a ticket (from the tip I had given him, I’m sure) and told me exactly which stairway to go down. I told him I had 17 minutes until the train left.
“Then you will run fast,” he said, smiling. “And you will get there.”
I sincerely thanked him, and did just that. And I made my train with two puffs off a cigarette to spare. Five hours later, I arrived in Berlin, with a bunch of bags that smelt like wealthy alcoholism (oh, what they’ve been through these past four weeks..).
So thank you, waiter from the Prague train station. I owe you 26 korunas, and then some.