Yesterday while I was at Roma eating pizza, sipping pivo (beer), and doing some writing, they changed the lock to my building. I got back and my key simply didn’t work. There was no sign, nor any warning that it would happen, and no indication what to do about it. It wasn’t just a language thing; there were no signs up at all. I stood outside the building in the light rain, asking myself, what the heck?

I stood in the doorway, flipping through my slovnic (dictionary) trying to figure out how to say “What the heck?” to anyone who happened to open the door. Eventually someone did, but by then I was too tired and frustrated to try to ask him anything. I really should have. Even if he spoke no English I by then knew the words for lock and key, and certainly he had got a new key from somewhere.

I mentioned the incident to another Prague NaNoWriMo participant and she said that she had heard of that happening to three other people. I had planned to be reclusive this month, but this is just crazy. The key is required to either enter or exit the building. (Most buildings are like that as far as I can tell. Imagine an American fire marshall over here.)

The biggest problem of all is that since I buy beer in quantities that fit in my coat pockets, I have no reserve. It never seemed to be an issue; there’s a beer store half a block from the front door. It is filled to bursting with yummy beer. Just down the street from there is a grocery store with even more beer. In between there’s a wine store and a booze store. All of them are on the other side of that door.

This just in: According to an email from Marianna, the building superintendant leaves town on the weekends. I probably puttered around the house too long, and now he’s gone. I will just have to hang by the doors until people pass through this weekend. Next time I leave, I’m coming back with plenty of supplies!

15 thoughts on “Trapped!

  1. This could be an exciting day in your czech learning curve!

    It could also be an exciting day to meet neighbors!

    Next door is the Brokovi family. They are a bit on the crazy side, but neighbors nun the less. At least 2 of the children speak english. For the ones that don’t, here are some important new words:

    bratr: brother (to be said while pointing to our door)

    nemam novy klič: I don’t have the new key (to be siad holding old key as example).

    M’te nov’ kl’č?: Do you have the new key?

    Mů’u si půjčit nov’ kl’č, abych si ho mohl přidělat?: (Moozou see poochit novy kleech, abeekchhh see ho mohul prrrjjjidyeahlat?) Can I burrow a new key so I can make a copy? (Here, any sort of pantomime yo can think of for making keys will help – remember Harvey).

    Marianna thinks it might be best to try the neighbors accross the hall first, since they are a bit more normal. Their name is Vesely (which means happy).

    Good Luck!

  2. Excellent suggestion. The other day as I was locking up your door I heard someone brushig against the neighbor’s door. I think they were checking me out through the keyhole.

    Tonight after coming back from the building Mgr’s place I saw people disappearing into the elevator. I went up the stairs as I usually do and as I got to this floor their door was just closing. I was about to knock but then they started shouting at each other. It hadn’t occurred to me to borrow a key to make a copy, so at that point I didn’t feel up to knocking.

    Do they also know you as Philee? Where would I go to make a copy of the key?

  3. This could be an exciting day to introduce the Czechs to the concept of a “beer run”:

    a.) hang around the door waiting for someone else to unlock it as they go in or out,

    b.) prop it open with some nearby object (e.g. empty beer bottle), and

    c.) run like heck to the beer store, buy beer, and run back before someone closes the door.

    [If the door is locked already, return to step a.)]

    Please record your times for the sake of posterity.

  4. Excellent! When I read your opening paragraph, I envisioned something even better.

    a.) hang out by the door with a party bell and a stopwatch…

  5. a) Get a stop watch and a bell

    b) Find all of the cereal and/or grain products in Marianna and pL’s apt. and pour into the bath tub with some warm water.

    c) add some yeast, or if preferred use Belgian method and wait for some airborn yeast to drift by.

    d) wait several days for your bath tub beer to mature.

    Why the stop watch and bell? I figure you’ll go insane before the beer is ready so they will provide entertainment. Alternatively you could march up and down the hallways, ringing the bell, and timing people and just looking officious. Ask to see their keys in a stern and authoritative way. Then do a sleight-of-hand key swap. Make your dad proud.

    Another idea – jam your old key into the lock and break it off. Then the whole apartment is in the same boat. Stand around and wait for someone to call the super. Make sure to get new key.

    I hope this helps.

  6. You know, that’s the same key routine as when people at Five O’Clock Somewhere forget the key — except the beer is 16 miles away instead of just up the block.

    Trying to see if this special effect works:


  7. I have it! The mail Delivery Lady has a key! Quick! SOMEONE MAIL ME SOME BEER! And the mail lady might appreciate a glass of vino.

    Oh, and I really could go for a nice sharp cheese about now…

  8. We can mail you some beer, but she can’t fit in the the box. She would leave you a piece of paper that you don’t understand saying you have a package waiting for you at the post office…on the other side of the door…perhaps you could bribe the boy living accross the hall to go to the store for you, or just break in to the various apartments and take their beer. Use the authoritative voice thing, and perhaps a russian or german accent, and it should be no problem.

  9. Well, she came to the door and made me sign something when a package was returned as undeliverable. Or something like that. What do I know?

    So the thing to do is send beer, but put a bogus address to ship it to and this address to return it. Pretty postal woman shows up at the door carrying alcohol, and I invite her in while I lood up every damn word on the for I have to sign.

    Although I have a key now. Still, it might be worth if for the chance to hit on the czech civil service.

  10. Of course, we still don’t know which “solution” you used to get the key! Was there danger and intrigue? Did you mug one of the babicka neighbors as she tired to enter the building? Did you sneak into the building super’s place with a lump of clay, make an impression, and head to the mobsters of Venceslav Namesti for an illicit copy? Or did you hire a locksmith to change the locks again so that you are the only one with a key? How did you do it, mon frajere?

  11. Interesting side note … In the condo we rented on South Padre Island was a framed tourist map of Matamoros, Mexico — the kind with the little cartoon signs indicating businesses that hope you’ll get interested enough to decipher the map and stop by.

    Of all the signs on that map, the very biggest one was the Cafe Gambrinus.

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