Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Debacle

For those of you who know us well, you know we don't really fight. We are like every couple--we have our moments, spats and occasional arguments. But I don't know that we've ever had an argument last through a night's sleep, and our marriage (and relationship before that) have been full of so few notable bouts that it is downright boring for storytelling purposes.

However, we had a good one the other day, and we think you might enjoy it a bit.

First, some context. We have been traveling "hard" these last few days. Cesky Krumlov was an absolute dream--small, medieval in every charming aesthetic way imaginable, modern in terms of all the hoped for conveniences, and we had a pretty unagressive agenda. Still, Trina was getting sick, and we were there for too little time.

We continued to Vienna, where we had an excellent time, but it was quick and exhausting. Our last day ended with a bike ride that was supposed to be about an hour and ended up more like three and a half. This was at the end of a long travel day and, suffice it to say, we were tired.

We ended up on a pretty late train to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. There was a series of frustrations along the way--our 'landlady' woke us up banging on the door in the morning, the train schedule wasn't clear about which trains left which stations (well, we weren't clear) and the bike incident. We were also underprepared for Bratislava. We had basically no maps, no clarity about how we were going to get to our hotel, and we were exhausted. Also, Bratislava is less culturally familiar, so we weren't sure about our judgment (should we be walking in this neighborhood at midnight?).

We arrived at about midnight. While Trina was getting our tickets to leave town the next day, I hit up the ATM. Only big bills. After a series of confusion events, we found out that our planned bus tickets wouldn't work, and that we had to buy some from these ancient machines that only take coins. The lady at the ticket booth was mean to Trina, and we were getting grumpy (and hot, carrying our HUGE bags, along with a bunch of groceries (we needed to get rid of our Czech money)).

Quick rewind. I have had a bit of a rough time with a certain cultural phenomenon. It is well known that Eastern Europeans can be a bit less approachable. This can be transcended, and I have seen it multiple times. Most people have been quite friendly. Except for the women behind service counters. I cannot tell you how many times one of us has been sneered at for daring to ask a question outside expectation. I've tried to remain culturally sensitive, but I've noticed myself getting a little snappy.

Anyway, so we needed change, and fast, as it was midnight and we had no idea how long the buses would be running. There was one little kiosk selling candy (the lady was behind what looks like bullet-proof glass--mostly, the whole booth was made of this clear hard plastic). I bought a candy bar for 25 in the local currency and handed her my smallest bill, a 500. She gave me 75 back. I said that was incorrect. She said no. I repeated myself, told her I gave her a five hundred. She said no.... Ah! That's right, here you go. So, I'm irritated, but whatever. Then, she gives me almost no coins. Apparently they have bills that go down to fives, the equivalent of a few cents.

I said, I'm sorry, but I really need coins. She shrugged. I said, look, you've got a bunch of coins, you are the only place open, and I have NO other way to get to my hotel tonight. I need your help. Then came the sneer, the dismissive hand waive and the turning the other direIction. I flipped. I don't know if I would say I yelled, but I think probably anyone near me would. I've never said anything particularly vulgar to a service person in my life, as far as I know, up until that night. Needless to say, I didn't mince words.

Trina, standing a few feet away, missed much of the conversation except the loud part from me. She flipped too--at me. "Ron, what are you doing? Stop it, stop it!" So I took her on, telling her how ridiculous it was the way this lady was acting, how screwed we were and how I wasn't really interested in her opinion about the way I talked to this lady. Then I turned back to the lady and gave her one final verbal thanks for her great customer service and Trina really got upset. She decided I was out of control (which wasn't true remotely, she's just never had that kind of difficulty getting me to calm down). So she hit me. She hit me on the top of the head, repeatedly, to get my attention. Like one of the moles at chuck-e-cheese. She just wacked me.

Then I was really mad. I'm sure the lady in the booth enjoyed herself. She probably didn't understand what I had yelled at her (and it seems that people are pretty expressive when they are angry here anyway). But this lady was leaving us in a bind, being dismissive, and my wife was hitting me because I was mad. I told Trina not to ever do that again, apparently rather commandingly. She was clearly angry, an unresponsive (well, she didn't hit me again). So basically we decided, we hate each other. We just have to find a way to our hotel and we can duke it out again.

I found a ticketing office that was open for five more minutes and talked a lady in there to helping me out. We found some college age guys who were able to point us to the right bus. Eventually some other guys who were in some sort of band on the bus helped us again, though it was a long enough bus ride for us to sit about ten feet apart scowling at each other.

The good news is, by the end of the night, I had apologized for my behavior, and Trina for the domestic violence. We had laughed so hard we practically cried. So, it looks like we are staying married. =)

I did try to apologize to the lady the next day, by the way. There was no excuse for her behavior, but neither was there for mine. She wasn't there. I was sad and incredibly relieved.


Marilee said...

what I wouldn't have payed to be a fly on the wall watching Trina whack Ron on the head repeatedly like a Chuckee Cheese mole. HILARIOUS

OnAnAdventure said...

OH man guys, I love the story. I can fully comprehend how fun you two must have both been. That's when I'm glad we're not traveling in a big group! :-)
What a day it must have been!