Poker Chips and Aggravated Assault in PragueFiled under Funny Shit That's Happened to Me
Editor’s Note: every single thing you are about to read actually happened to me, without one iota of exaggeration.
So, it’s my first week living in Prague, where I studied abroad in a desperate (and successful) attempt to salvage something from the tattered, bloody remains of my college experience. I’d been enjoying a few big dark delicious beers with some Middlebury friends when I decided to go meet my boy Franco on the other side of town. I was not drunk, by the way (this factoid will become important later) --- just a ‘lil tipsy.
To get to the other side of town, I had to take the subway a few stops to IP Pavlova. So there I was, strolling through the subway tunnels on my way to the Red Line, completely minding my own business --- NOT babbling away on my Blackberry in English or listening to my iPod or being a douchey American tourist in any way. I took a left into a deeper tunnel, weaving my way through a gaggle of Italians, who are somehow always on vacation and touring the Earth.
All of a sudden, I noticed that I was being followed. By Andre the Giant. Look, I know this seems like a convenient detail in retrospect, but seriously, this guy was enormous --- huge bushy beard, crazy Einstein hair, big puffy black jacket. He was running up alongside me, gesturing over and over to his hand, which had like a stack of red and gold poker chips in it.
Now before even arriving in Prague, I’d been instilled with a real (and unfair) paranoia about the place --- everyone told me to be careful, to keep my eyes open since muggings happen all the time and shit can just be all around seedy. Add on top of that the fact that I’m from New York City, and ruthlessly ignoring strangers is second nature to me, and you’ll understand why I didn’t decide to stop and have a chit-chat with this beast of a man, who looked like a low ranking gangster from Eastern Promises and was clearly trying to sell me black tar heroin.
I continued to ignore Andre the Giant for a good long minute --- he kept pointing wildly at his hand, and I kept flapping my arm at him and telling him to fuck off. Then he started screaming at me, babbling away in Czech, that beautiful melodic language that can only be spoken with a wad of phlegm in your throat.
He reached his hand out to stop me from walking, and I pushed it away. And then, he grabbed me. Grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me hard against the subway wall, where I hung, off my feet. Naturally I started shrieking like a schoolgirl.
Meanwhile, flocks of ordinary Czech citizens were just waltzing on by, completely indifferent to the physical abuse I was enduring and my anguished cries for help. I had never been more terrified in my life, especially when, all of a sudden, as he had me pinned against the wall, Andre reached deep into the pocket of his puffy jacket.
Now in that moment, dear readers, I was 100% convinced that this maniac was reaching for a knife, with which he would slit open my throat. I knew it, deep in my bones, like a premonition, which is why I instinctively punched Andre as hard as I could in the arm. This was, and is still, the only time I have ever punched anyone, anywhere.
Andre the Giant dropped me, I think mostly just out of shock. I really don’t think he could believe that a little five foot six Jewish creature had just decked him.
What ensued afterwards was a full-blown chase scene, Jason Bourne style, with me running frantically through the tunnels of the Prague subway system, yelling for help in my high-pitched lady voice and Andre in hot pursuit, chasing me. CHASING ME!
Finally I came to an escalator, which I jetted up, body-Czeching Czechs out of my way. Andre, on account of his enormous size, could not maneuver as adeptly up the escalator, and so I lost him. Eventually I emerged from the subway, happy to be alive.
It took about 25 minutes for my heart rate to return to normal. I had been assaulted, for fuck’s sake. I called my parents, my sisters, my girlfriend at the time (and at this time, too) and was just flipping out. My Dad said maybe I should come home, if I was living in a place where giants just spontaneously attack you for no reason.
I got home to my apartment and recounted the story to all my flat mates, one of whom happened to be Czech, a Prague native. Everyone was amused by my wild tale, except the Czech, who wasn’t even smiling.
“Are you sure it wasn’t a ticket checker?” he asked. You see my friends, the Prague public transportation system runs on an honor system --- you buy your ticket but the only time you need to present it is if a ticket-checking officer comes over and asks to see it.
“No, it wasn’t a fucking ticket checker, he didn't have a badge. The guy was wearing a puffy jacket and sweat pants and was trying to sell me a stack of poker chips.” Red and gold poker chips.
The Czech roommate whipped out his computer and typed some phlegmy gibberish into Google Images. He turned the screen towards me --- “did the poker chip look like this?”
“That’s a badge.”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you accidentally assault a government employee in a foreign country.