And then I remembered.
It was one of those blisteringly cold evenings in Prague last year, sometime in December. I had met with a few friends and then we had parted ways on one Saturday, and I had my mind set on finally checking out the Alfred Mucha & Salvador Dali exhibit which had been catching my eye. It was visible every time we passed through one of the city’s main squares and tourist thoroughfare, near the famous clock. I headed towards the little museum, over snow trodden ground, and after a long day of lesson planning, traipsing through the city and emerging down a dastardly hill from our villa.
And I did manage to get there. There wasn’t even a line at the ticket booth. The Czech ticket employee in the booth on the first floor facing the open square spoke no English. I parlayed that I wanted to buy a ticket to see both the Dali and the Mucha exhibits. Since I didn’t have enough cash, I decided to shell out my last few Czech crowns and then just grab some cash from the ATM, which the ticket employee had gestured was upstairs. A few rushed and completely misunderstood exchanges later, I had parted ways with the ticket booth and went up the little staircase, only, found no ATM machine on the second floor, only the gift shop and a couple of elderly museum employees, that, thankfully, spoke English. They asked for my ticket. As soon as I heard the inquiry, the realization of misunderstood communication hit.
I trekked back down the stairs, and, since there was still no other patrons, went back to the same ticket booth employee. I wanted my money back, so I could just pay for my ticket all on my credit card on the second floor, where they had a credit card machine (and no ATM, remember). But, since I had no receipt or any proof that she had taken several hundred crowns from me, a flash of panic flashed inside of me. She spoke no English. I asked for my money back, beginning to gesture as well as I could. Still she didn’t understand. She was wearing these thick, almost goggle-like glasses that magnified her eyes on her face to everyone, a convex lens. She just ranted off in Czech. A few people started to line up behind me. I began to get the sinking feeling that I was getting ripped off and she had pocketed the cash.
I could feel the blood running hot in my veins. All of the past few weeks, months, of transitioning, frustration, feeling like a foreigner, being out of my comfort zone, the alienation of not only being a foreigner in a country, but a minority; the blistering cold (as mentioned, because, honestly, it is definitely worth emphasizing), the stone-faced reception from the locals, the daily trek up and down one treacherous bitch of a hill; it all came to a head at this particular moment, with this Czech ticket booth employee, on this evening.
Something inside me snapped. Not sure what exactly it was, I was alone, and didn’t like the feeling of being ripped off in a touristy enclave, taken advantage of, or anything along those lines. I couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t let this offense just roll off my back, and sure as hell wasn’t going to be a pushover. My guard instantly went up, and I started yelling. I could feel my face redden and my blood start to pulse. The ticket employee was starting to get upset, nowhere near the level at which I was at, but, at least showed some sort of reaction. I had a small audience now, as the line was forming behind me. After I’d sufficiently created an embarrassing, woman-just-had-a-meltdown scene, the ticket lady slid back the cash I had given her, under the opening of the glass panel window. I grabbed the cash and stormed my way up the stairs.
I was so upset, relaying the situation which had just transpired to the elderly museum employees on the second floor. They talked to the ticket booth lady while I paced the lengths of the small gift shop, finally coming to some understanding – or something.
Something about – she thought I was paying the rest by credit card, but then the other employees had no way of knowing how much I had already paid, since she hadn’t given me a receipt. To this day I don’t know what the booth lady could’ve thought that I was doing, or at least why she didn’t give me some proof of purchase to show her acknowledgment.
I never knew what it was like to be that person, making a scene in public. Check.
Fortunately, I did manage to see both exhibits, though was mainly using the time and artwork to calm down. I even snuck a photo.