Monday, December 06, 2004

Holy moly! My blog must be starving. I haven't fed it for over week.

It's been an exhausting time at the cafe recently, what with our one Czech manager taking the entire month of December off. So please, forgive me if you've been hanging out with me in the last week or so and, after a few drinks, you've already heard me blurt out a few of these banal thoughts and anecdotes.

There was the cab driver who drove me home from the swank Christmas party of a new restaurant on Wenceslas Square called "Hot" (tagline: Where Asia Meets Europe). It's situated in the lobby of the Hotel Jalta, and it's owned by Tommy Sjoeoeoe (imagine a few umlauts there) who also owns Pravda and some other stuff. Anyway, but for the open bar, the party was not terribly notable. I ended the night at Chapeau Rouge, or whatever it's called now, and I stumbled out onto the street to order a cab via SMS. Presently a passing taxi slowed and asked if I wanted a ride. I asked him how much for a ride to Vrsovice namesti. He said 300 crowns. I laughed. He said, OK, so how much?

Note that the little that has taken place in the story so far is by itself odd; Czechs aren't exactly haggling types, and off the top of my head the only place I can think of where the cab driver hails you, instead of vice versa, is Cairo. So at this point, despite a general prohibition against taking cabs you find on the street in Old Town, I'm thinking there's hope we might came to a reasonable arrangement.

So I told him how much I thought a ride to Vrsovice was worth -- 150 crowns -- and he said, "That's too little," and drove away. So much for that.

I ordered a cab via SMS, and on the way home I interrogated this new cab driver about the internal reasoning behind the former's decision not to take me home for what was, after all, a perfectly fair price. I was expecting something of a fiscal explanation; that is, it's more economical for a cab driver to continue driving around Old Town looking for a gullible tourist than to drive to Vrsovice and back for a decent fare.

The cab driver only had one explanation: "Špatný národ." It's a bad nation.

I said, "Yes, but wouldn't it have made sense for him to drive me to Vrsovice and then just go back?"

He just repeated, "Bad nation."

"What do you think that's guy's doing right now?" I asked.

"Parked somewhere sitting on his ass."

The fare was 155 crowns. I left him 170. That's the end of the story.


They might be one or two of you out there interested in knowing that my friend Zuzana Lesenarova was recently quoted in The Observer, the Sunday version of The Guardian, talking about Martina Hingis. (Zuzana is a former professional tennis player who made it to the U.S. Open some years ago.)

Cool beans, right? Well, except for a few things:

1. It was in a sidebar to another piece, so the quote's not online.

2. She's not quoted saying particularly nice things about Martina Hingis. Indeed -- my girlfriend read the quote to me over the phone and I don't have it in front of me -- but she's quoted saying something along the lines of, "It seems like [Hingis] was playing hard not because she really wanted to win, but because she was afraid her mom would yell at her if she didn't."

3. The quote uses the word "betrayed," as in "She never betrayed a sense of..." Frankly I can't imagine Zuzka using that work in that context. But worse...

4. The friggin' interview took place four or five years ago. Zuzana says she vaguely remembers talking to a British reporter refered to her by her sister (who's a well-known Czech journalist). How lame is that? Recycling a quote from at least four years ago? Even if it's already been published, the paper should at least identify it as such.

This is just a random anecdote, but I suppose the next time somebody tells you The Guardian sucks / doesn't suck, you could gratuitiously mention this. UPDATE: Or not. Sam Beckwith in the comments points out, "What The Observer writes isn't really a reflection on The Guardian (or vice versa)." UPDATE #2: There's more to this story. Read the comments.


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