I was cold when I woke up this morning, even though the window was closed. I looked out over the rooftops and saw a sky of brittle blue. Steam was gushing from the chimneys and hanging in the still air, dissipating reluctantly. It looked cold. I’ve come to appreciate the sun, however. I haven’t seen a whole lot of it lately. I bundled up and headed out with three goals: Palacinky, baterie, and pictures. I succeeded at all those things.
First, the batteries. I figured the drug store at the corner would carry a double-A cell or two, so I popped in there. A note on the layout of Czech stores: they love bottlenecks. If you’re not caught in a traffic jam while entering a store of any size you’re dealing with amateurs. Droxi is as professional as it gets. As soon as I was caught in this shuffling mass of tiny shopping carts driven by people who I am convinced were not there to shop at all (the carts were empty and the drivers stood staring at shelves, not moving), I forgot how to say “excuse me” in Czech. The phrase just flew right out of my head, leaving me to bull my way gently through the narrow aisles filled with people smiling blankly at toothpaste.
There were no batteries that I could find in the store. I did need shampoo, however, so the adventure was not a total waste. I escaped to the cold hard air outside and moved in the direction of Namesti Miru. On the way I passed an electronic gadget store. I popped in and sure enough they had batteries. I asked for four of them. He went to the rack and discovered that they came only in packs of six. He began to tear into the pack. He can’t do that! My neurotic American mind said. I went so far as to stop him and buy six batteries rather than four. Am I a tool or what? I stopped him from accommodating my wishes because I didn’t want him to violate the wishes of the manufacturer! I’d like to think I was just saving him the trouble, but fundamentally that wasn’t it. To me a “buy-four-get-two-free” pack was fundamentally different than a “price reduced 33%” pack. Not so this merchant, and more power to him.
Wiser and encumbered by two extra AA batteries, I made my way on toward a late breakfast. There’s a little place in a perfect location, a fast-food joint czech style set at a major tram connection and above a metro stop. Across the tram tracks is an old church. For people watching, there is no better place. For sitting and writing, there would be no better place except for one thing: They are always busy. When you sit at a table, expect to share. I would feel guilty settling in for the afternoon at a place like that. Still, for a buck and a half I get my fill of Palačinky and a čaj čern