Saturday, September 08, 2007

Moving stairway to nefilim

Somehow, while I have had enough time to stumble across ideas for blog posts and even managed to worry them around enough to find some of the rough edges, I haven't really had the time to bash them into shape. Consequently, when I do sit down at a keyboard for bloggish purposes, I don't even know where to start. It feels as if all these whirling fragments of posts have clogged up my back brain and it takes enormous concentration to get anything down - even a hopeful list of topics.

Personally, I blame the escalators. Escalator-based differences are one of those things that I noticed when I first arrived here, but which rapidly became part of the day-to-day pattern of my life. When I was first getting to know the glories of the Prague metro system, my thoughts when escalator-bound would go something like this:

"Ticket stamping machine… where's my ticket? Oh yes, here. No that's used, okay, yes, here it is."

Silent squishing noise (yes, it is possible) as ticket collapses in ticket stamping machine. Squish again. Squish again.

"Okay… not the ticket. Different machine."

Whirrrrr. Bzzpp. (electronic date-stamping noise). Walk to escalator. Stand. Stare at the back of people's heads, trapped by the lack of appropriate Czech verbiage. Stand some more. Brain flips into the same semi-meditative trance of resigned boredom that causes me to read the ingredients listing on cereal boxes at breakfast and starts looking for escalator equivalent of a nutrition label.

"Ohhhh. Strange-looking Czech words on posters. I recognise that brand. And that one too. But not that one. Hey, I know that word. I think that one is advertising a language school. Yes, "jazyky". I know that word. And "anglic-with-a-hacek-tina" too. Wow. I can read some Czech. So I wonder what that is? Oh "divadlo". That's theatre. So maybe a play? Or seasons? It's a black and white picture of two people with angst in their eyes. With an owl. Must be a play. What's the owl for? How far? What? I'm not even half-way down this thing yet. Bloody hell, this is taking for-ee-vaaahh. Borrreeed.

"What play has an owl? This is a long escalator. I wish that man would move to the right. I wonder what Czech for "please stand on the right is?" Hmmmm… trees of the year. The June one is nice. In London, there are signs and announcements. Very leafy, that May tree. Tree of May. Whatever. Why aren't there signs and announcements? Or is it moving very slowly? In London, heavy breathing makes people move. Don't Praguers understand the meaning of heavy-breathing-at-the-neck? Damn. I think that was my train.

"Yes, look, people are getting on the escalator from that side of the platform. Isn't this light a strange yellowy colour? And the ticket machines are yellow too. This is a really long escalator. I wish I could walk. Or speak enough Czech to ask them to move. Maybe they're tourists. Tourists in London don't always understand the heavy-breathing-at-the-neck thing. Even though they have pictures with big red "X"s. And announcements. But the announcements are only in English. Which is pretty idiotic.

"And there's that whole slow time thing too. Maybe they don't get the need to rush. That's nice. It probably means fewer heart attacks. I'm sure I read somewhere that the faster people walked in cities, the unhealthier they were. These people are probably keeping me healthy. Which is good. Really. But also annoying. Hey, so that's what Bourne Ultimatum is in Czech. Could I get a tree of the year? I would probably feel healthier about the not rushing if I wasn’t breathing in this incredibly unpleasant smell. Especially through warm air. How do people do things like that in ventilation?" Ad nauseam (ahem, big klew about smell there).

Three hours later (okay, actually 2 and a half minutes. E timed one once. But it's a veeerrryy sloooowwwww 2 and a half minutes), I am at last able to admire the unique platform architecture and dulcet tones of the (occasionally) trilingual announcements, where the Czech takes twice as long as the German or English versions, leaving me in a permanent state of anxiety about what important travel-related information I might be missing.

"Bing-bing. Dear passengers, for your safety, you are please asked to remain standing behind the white line." Well, it's white and black. And more grey than white, actually. "Bing-bing. Dear passengers. Already this Saturday Prague will become the venue of the Mattoni Night Grand Prix. The night run in the streets of Prague will affect the city transportation in the centre of Prague between nineteen thirty hours and twenty-two thirty hours. There will be tram service disruption in the section…"

But these days, everything just blurs into the getting-to-another-place zone of empty-headedness. It takes something spectacular along the lines of battling clowns to shake me out of auto-pilot. Familiarity breeds contemptplation (hurhur). So as my daily two to four escalators become the only point in the day where I can actually go into slow time, they give me just enough time to get irritated by a bit of mental grit, but no more. Actual coherent structures would require a bit more of, well, everything.

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