Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Sniper - Prague Diaries 2

The second of my Prague Diaries. People asked me after yesterday if these are true stories. Well I am a fiction writer. There are often elements of truth in my stories, how much, you decided. 

Now I know when Czechs travel to Britain they are amazed by how draughty everything is, and even more amazed that Brits don’t seem to mind the cold. In return I have yet to fathom why so many Czechs prefer the smell of three-day old tramp piss to having a small current of fresh air circulating on public transport. Even in the heat of summer the windows remain tightly closed on Prague trams, so I had no chance of fresh air on the last tram home at the end of March. I’ve been told that this lack of air is because of fear of ear infection, but two things strike me about this excuse. One, when was the last time you knew about an adult with an ear infection; we grow out of them at the age of six! And two, I can’t find any health website that says fresh air causes earache.   
The tram I was on that night had so little air in it it was not safe for canaries, and what air there was was being intoxicated by the smell of the tramp sleeping in the third seat from the back. It was hot too; hot and stuffy, perfect for Czechs, an anathema to Brits. I unzipped my coat in the hope of cooling down a tad, but it was no good, I was going to have commit the Czech cardinal sin and open a window.

But I knew that if I tried to open a window just a crack I would put myself at risk of the Czech specialty, no not fried cheese or slivovice, but the passive aggressive lynching. You would think that passive aggression would be better than the British alternative of aggressive aggression, bordering on violence, but the tut-tutting and the rolling of eyes are somehow worse. If I was really unlucky, I’d get the consistent mumbling, the incantation, the casting of spells, that would echo around the tram until I got off. I’d take having a drunken man, or woman, stab a finger into my chest and call me a c*** any day of the week.
What I didn't expect was the man sitting next to the window to go down clutching his ear like a sniper had taken him out. As soon as I forced the window open, he'd collapsed in a heap. The bullet of cooler air ripping through his auditory canal and lodging itself in his Eustachian tube. Writhing in pain, he immediately demanded the window be shut. Onlookers looked on appalled by my aggressive actions; how dare I break the non-fresh air pact? The tutting had started, and the spells were being cast.
I tried to explain to my victim that the tram was smelly, but I think only made it worse. My Czech was never that good at the best of times, let alone after 6 months away. The onlookers gasped and the spells were silenced as I told the stricken passenger – that he and not the tram was smelly. 

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