March 13, 2018

the original airbnb: a sobering event

The four of us student travelers were relieved to be reunited in the tiny rented flat in downtown Prague.  Charles, who was apparently breaking the law by accepting funds in exchange for our staying at his place, explained to us in broken English that we were to pose as friends who were visiting.  There was lots of nodding on our part before he handed us the key and left.  When we were alone we admitted to our individual fears and the various frightening scenarios that had played out in our minds as we allowed Charles to separate us and lead us to his flat.   

I remember there was no shower, just a sink with a hose extension and a curtain next to the toilet.  This was all located in the minuscule kitchen.  I took a pass on a shower.  Obviously.  In addition to the kitchen/bathroom combo there was a small living area that doubled as a bedroom.

Pat's birthday celebration brought us to Prague in part because the beer was so cheap.  My traveling companions were anxious to get the festivities underway.  We walked to a nearby beer hall where we didn't wait long for a table.  The night was young.

We each ordered a meal from the menu.  The food was dirt cheap and the portion sizes were unbelievably huge.  Our server threw four large beer steins down on the table and added four tick marks to a piece of paper on the table.  Each over sized beverage was 19 cents.  As soon as a beer was close to empty, another landed on the table to replace it.  There was no question as to whether or not an additional beer was welcome or not. 

I used hand motions to inform our generous waiter that I was not interested in consuming another drink.  It took a few minutes, but eventually he got the message.  The fellas I was stuck at the table with showed less restraint.  Three beers, three tick marks, three sloppy drinkers, and me. 

When Keith rested his head on the table, Pat and Neil celebrated with slurred words and clumsy high fives.  Lights our for Keith.  The other two idiots ordered me to take a photo of them.  They posed with their fingers in the #1 position hovering over Keith's unconscious head.  Neil was next.  Pat requested another photo.  Proof that he was 'still standing' while his buds had passed out . . . on the table not far from our tick mark paper bill. 

Embarrassing.  If you look at the table
 you can see the paper used to track
the consumption of too many 19 cent
steins of beer.
I noticed a line forming at the door.  Hungry and thirsty customers were waiting for tables.  Our table was serving as a sleeping-it-off station.   Pat didn't last much longer.  I did the only thing I could.  I took a picture of the three of them and tried not to glance at the patrons waiting to sit down as I started trying to rouse them.

Eventually I was successful in waking the three of them up.  They stumbled outside.  A few feet from the door Pat lost his cheap meal.  I was delighted to say the least. 

We found our way back to Charles' apartment, but we struggled to get the key to work.  More visions of this friendly older guy duping us.  Had he given us a fake key so he could take our backpacks while we went to check out the local sights?  It was late at night and my intoxicated friends were far from quiet.  Just before we got the door unlocked, I noticed a neighbor lady open her door and peek out at us. 

We were unrolling our sleeping bags, brushing our teeth, and certain people were harassing others about their lack of ability to hold their drink.   There was a knock at the door.  Neil looked out the peep hole and turned to face us with a look of horror on his face.  Voices were yelling at him to open the door.  When he opened it, there stood two soldiers.  They had weapons.  They were big.  Their uniforms were gray with red sashes.  They repeated over and over:  'Passports, passports!  Arrest, arrest!'

We fumbled around for our passports while Neil attempted to describe our close knit ties to our friend Charles.  We were visiting him from the United States.  'Friends.  Friends with Charles.'  He repeated these phrases over and over.  He demonstrated how the key was stuck.  Shrugging.  Apologizing.  I don't know how long we stood there wondering if we would be hauled off to prison.  In Prague.  It seemed like an eternity.  Eventually these giant soldiers- I'm telling you, they were NOT just police officers, handed us back our passports and headed out the door.  I don't have photos of this part of our travels.  I just didn't think it was appropriate to ask them to pose with my drunk companions. 

We were all quite sober after that. 

I leave on Tuesday for Scotland with Mini and Curly and my Dad.  Curly is dancing in the World Championships of Irish dancing.  We reserved an Airbnb in Glasgow.  I have many traveling related logistics weighing on my mind.  The Airbnb is a new experience, so I have a bit of anxiety about whether or not it will be a pleasant one.  Of course if I compare it to my original Airbnb stay in Prague, it will be a piece of cake. 


Gigi said...

How terrifying!

Maria (also Bia) said...

My friend and I had a layover in Brussels where I was pulled aside for some medication I was carrying. The medication was in the form of syringes, each filled with a blood thinner that I had been prescribed to treat a DVT. Try explaining all this to scary looking security personnel who do NOT speak English. Scary moment, but I was waved through ... eventually.

Loved your story; of course, it's one which is funny in retrospect.

Ernie said...

You got that right. I still remember thinking, 'What will we tell mom and dad?'

Ernie said...

That sounds horrifying too! The older I get the more I grasp why old people often don't bother going anywhere. Oh, the episode I had today with airbnb (the real deal) has me totally on edge and it is not resolved. They have my money though, so I am assuming it will end well. If my nerves last that long! I just posted about this craziness - minus Prague soldiers, of course.