American tourists broken down outside of Prague

Sketchy looking auto mechanic, south Prague

Sketchy looking auto mechanic, south Prague

We took the A6 again toward Nürnberg, only a few hours to the Czech border, but after stopping to buy a vignette and reset the navigator we realized the rear brakes were going, making a sound like bone on bone.

Mom had the German equivalent of AAA roadside assistance but when we tried to call, we got strange error messages in different languages and couldn’t reach Eberhard either; he was probably working in the garden outside his mom’s house, or taking a nap.

So mom and I resigned ourselves to our situation, parked outside a gas station a half an hour from Prague, unable to speak any Czech beyond what we had on a piece of paper with some common expressions, with no local currency or ATM, and many places still not on the euro.

I had a feeling the brakes were going but when I asked Eberhard (because that’s what we do, we ask Eberhard) he thought it could be rust on the pads with the car sitting as long as it had, which is what I wanted to believe so we could feel good taking my car instead of mom’s since the stereo is better, it has a four-CD changer.

We sat for about an hour in the gas station people-watching, waiting for the tow truck, and had to find someone who could speak English and most people didn’t, relying on hand gestures to explain what happened, mom remarking on the Czech women smoking and chatting with their friends, colleagues, dates: all the make-up, tight jeans, spiky hair, concert announcements for bands like Slade and Nazareth that just won’t die in towns like this, where pop culture’s stuck in a Peter Pan timelessness and The Smurfs still seem like something new.

Mom and I have been bickering some lately because we’re too much alike; we get bothered by irregularities like crooked pictures on walls or small crumbs that are unseen by most, an eye for detail that allows people like us in a middle management profession to either flourish or snap from the never-ending imperfection and stupidity of life, like two project managers having to share the same turf, we’ll start correcting each other’s grammar or pronunciation even if we don’t know it ourselves, optimizing each step of the plan even if the plan is to not have a plan and reminding ourselves of that more than necessary until it becomes such a chore to not have a plan, so foreign an idea, we’ll drift back to concocting one anyway, and can’t conceal it it’s so good, we need to talk about it, until after a few days of trying to relax outside our comfort zone we’re exhausted by the strange normalcy of it and yearn to get back to the known, and all that needs tending to.

It took about an hour in the tow truck to the south end of Prague before we got out and tried to decide what to do, now that we didn’t have a car or any local currency for a cab — and when the mechanics hoisted the car up to get underneath and lubed up their hands they made me think of a doctor, and would probably get paid the same.

We followed the river north and didn’t talk for a while. Mom commented that it looked like the bridge was taking us in the wrong direction. Once we were in the thick of things in town, mom suggested we ask someone for help which I couldn’t agree to but she insisted, and we got some nice guy in his 20s with off-centered eyes who used his phone to illustrate where we were but we couldn’t make it out, and he said it was like the equivalent of a dollar for a tram ticket but when we asked the tow truck driver before he didn’t know where you could buy one because he always does it on his phone — and even sensible choices seemed far away from us, unviable, so we carried on thinking it would be just a bit farther but overshot our turn somehow and had to double-back, and by the time we got to our room we’d walked for two hours and I was starting to imagine the cobblestones looked like broken teeth.

I then felt entitled to a Thai massage treatment where you put your feet in a water tank and let the little fish eat the dead skin cells there. I never did it before but it sounded good, so I asked for the feet in the fish package for 25 minutes, hung my legs in the tank like two hams, and sat there in the window while people stopped and pointed at me and took pictures with their phones.

They had to move me to another tank though because the fish weren’t as active in the first one — they were better in the second tank, angrier — and I imagined them peeling me away like I was made out of paper maché, layer by layer, and for a time it started to hurt but I told myself it didn’t, it must be my nerves misfiring, but when I looked down they were knotted together in a brown clump burrowing into me and I had to shake my leg to get them off and realized I was bleeding, and thought maybe I should do something and wondered if that was normal, but it started to gross me out so I lifted my leg and gestured to the Thai women in their robes who were giving massages and they all cried out in a kind of alert that must have meant ‘blood in the tank!,’ and the lead woman came back and taped me off, and made reassuring faces because she was Cuban and didn’t speak English, and after a few more minutes I couldn’t relax and had to go, and didn’t leave a tip.

Skin smooth as billiard chalk

Skin smooth as billiard chalk

Once you see the imperfection in things it’s hard not to, but you’ll be a lot happier if you can learn to shut it off. Mom and I have this thing about letting go, I guess. If life is like a chess game it’s hard for us to just sit on our squares and not keep looking forward two or three moves, but even though you see the board better that way, you risk not seeing what’s right in front of you.

And that’s how it is here, writing about our time, what should be such a fantastic and exotic walkabout for me and my family. It’s hard to know what we’ll get out of it while we’re still in it.

Root art sculpture looks over Spielplatz, Besigheim

Root art sculpture looks over Spielplatz, Besigheim

 

 

 

 

 

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
This entry was posted in musings, travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to American tourists broken down outside of Prague

  1. Lynn Love says:

    Missed a few of your posts, Bill – family commitments and just started CampNaNo – so nice to read you again. You make having a rotten day poetic! Hope it wasn’t too awful in the end 🙂

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      CampNaNo sounds great, good on you for doing that Lynn. I’m sure it will be good. No worries on the blog-missing either — I’m missing a lot myself, and not spending so much time online as normal. Hope the family is well and appreciate you stopping by whenever you can. Cheers, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        CampNaNo is a way to try to focus my mind on writing up a novel idea rather than spending all of my writing time online. I love the blog, but I stared this to write novels and get them published. That’s not going to happen if all I do is blog surf 🙂 Hope your family’s well too, Bill. All the best 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Any way you can find to focus is good. I find the blog surfing, well, a real distraction. For me, it seems it should be the side-act and not the main act, but it’s so satisfying and quick in its sense of accomplishment (and then the obvious interaction part, which is really wonderful) that it can suck you in. You will find whatever it takes to focus yourself and then, my unsolicited advice, don’t change a damn thing once you get into a rhythm. I made that mistake and kind of lost my thread here for a couple months, but our circumstances are also pretty weird right now. And best to you and yours too, Lynn — thanks for reading. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Thanks Bill. Yes a tough balance. That’s the problem with blogging and posting short fiction – a quick turn around/ quick feedback compared to the long haul of novel writing. Being going well on the novel this week though – 6,900 words and counting. Must be hard to keep consistency when you’re travelling so much. You do well to keep all the writing afloat. All the best and thanks for the advice 🙂

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        6,900 is wunderbar! Gute gemacht!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        How is your German? You must be pretty much bilingual by now, surely? I remember liking it when I briefly studied it a few years ago. And thank you 🙂

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Mein Deutsch ist schlecht, Lynn. But getting better, thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Ha! I’m sure it’s much better than mine – I had to google ‘schlecht’so I knew what you meant 🙂

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Make sure you spit some when you say Schlecht. That always helps with the credibility. I’ve come around to finding it a pretty language (yes, I said that) but it took time to hear that. I do like the English accent. It makes me self-conscious sometimes when I speak American-English, for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        I found German much easier to learn than French – I think it’s something to do with the sentence construction. And yes, I rather liked the sound of it too. 🙂

        Like

  2. Mo says:

    Love the part about the broken teeth. Laughed aloud! Also the planning not to plan. I feel ya! Oh my gosh, and the fish! Ugh! Amazing writing. Thank u for sharing.
    Mo

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hi Mo, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts — I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun with it myself…and love the name Mo by the way, had a friend named Moira who went by that and she was a cool chick. Best to you and yours, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. poshbirdy says:

    Yeah, the imperfections in things just won’t go away, so love them. Love your blog. Keep it coming

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thanks! I’m so glad you like it and appreciate the encouragement. Imperfections make things interesting, but sometimes hard to — I don’t know — not fuss over. I hope you were able to make it to the south of France for Eastertime and enjoyed yourselves there. Best, Bill

      Like

  4. Tish Farrell says:

    Hoping for light at the end of the tunnel of man-eating fish, and fish-out-of-water sensation. It WILL get better. Big hug. Tx

    Like

  5. Yahooey says:

    From tankstelle to fish tank.

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That is terribly witty. I’ll have to confess, and I’m not proud of this, I had to look up the word ‘tankstelle’ before I could reply and understand the comment. Thanks for that, mister. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  6. walt walker says:

    You flash the clover leaf cheer / it’s a game / you’re winning
    There’s always so many piranhas
    Watch out for piranhas

    I’m not sure what the lyrics mean, but your post made me think of them. Tripping Daisy. Blood in the tank. Ouch. And yuck. I don’t think I would have put anything in there. Not even my feet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you for sharing the lyrics. And I’d love to get the down-low on your last post, the behind-the-scenes director’s cut, or whatever. I’ve been thinking about that for a couple days now. Is it just the Salinger vox you got, or what? I wanted to compare that post to some album made by a band where their style sort of diverged and evolved, but the search turned up no results. I liked the image of the jean jacket with the Crue button, though. I had a Ratt button, and others. And now I have one I wear on my lapel that reads “Slacker,” and I hope they bury me in it. Bill

      Like

  7. daveply says:

    What with the increasing cost of auto mechanics, I wonder how long it’ll be before we add coverage for routine maintenance to our auto insurance?

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s a good idea, isn’t it? Depends on the car maybe. Triple A should look at that if they haven’t already. Maybe a more risky venture for them than life insurance though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • daveply says:

        I guess in hindsight they’ve already got it; it’s called the manufacturer’s warranty. Designed to have a shelf life just less than the average part.

        Like

  8. ksbeth says:

    i rather like the imperfections in life, and how we discover that things are not always as we imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Elizabeth Box says:

    Oh wow, sounds like a rough start to your adventure! I hope things are much better today, and you can relax, have fun, and enjoy your time together.

    Love you both,

    Beth

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thanks Beth — yes, it’s all good. Quite a bit character-building though, and I feel as if, between my mom and me, we’ve already got enough. Perhaps not, right? Yes, looking forward to being home to see you soon. Love, Bill

      Like

  10. I think it’s brilliant that you don’t exactly know what you will get out of this trip. We, all of us following you, know that it will be more than a nibbled soul (or two) perhaps even a nibble hoof. But that is why you are on this adventure and why we want to hear about it. Not knowing the tidy reason is where the poetry is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      I love your comment Angela, thank you. You are spot on, and I am grateful you’re reading, thank you — it means a lot to me. Bill

      Like

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