You’d think that a temperature system incapable of reaching triple digits would also mean that all temperatures it measures are incapable of being hot, but I’ll have you know that here in Europe they don’t believe in logic, and so even though the weather reports say it’s 33 degrees in downtown Prague, it’s not freezing AT ALL. Someone needs to tell these people that it is at least 100 degrees here, if not possibly 175. That and that someone invented an air conditioner back when Václav Havel was in short pants — and perhaps if the Commies had allowed Václav Havel to use that newly invented air conditioner instead of sticking him in jail, he could have worn pants of regular length. As it stands, however, whichever Václav is currently in charge of this country has some sort of beef with air conditioning, so I am left to attend Czech language school in outfits that would get me fired from FlashDancers but on the Prague tram make me look like an especially prudish babichka.
Not that our lessons couldn’t use a little spicing up. I don’ t know if you’re aware of this, but until you’re fluent in a language, all dialogue you have with anyone must be categorically inane. If you attempt to talk about anything other than what times of the day you normally eat horseradish-flavored whipped cream, they will lock you in a dungeon with fake medieval torture instruments which they then make you pay $23 US to view.
Learning a new language generally consists of stages not unlike the stages of grief. Instead of ‘denial,’ what you have is a kind of man-child honeymoon period, wherein you manage to memorize 17 words and say them in quick succession everywhere you go despite the context. “I would like a card for the telephone language,” you proclaim triumphantly to the woman selling subway tickets, or, “I am an omelet with one mushrooms and seven beers,” you yell desperately to the waitress after she flings a menu in your general direction. I’m making myself understood, you insist, though the only person who understands you is the you who lives in your inner monologue.
‘Anger’ is roughly the same, though instead of being directed at the recently deceased, your ire is flung haphazardly at an amorphous system of lexical indices and noun declensions. Two-year-old Czech kids have no problem deciding when to use the verb that means “to have visited someone, habitually, in the easily-recalled past, using some form of motorized transportation excluding a boat or a plane,” but I’m left standing on the precipice of the Nietzschean abyss wondering what constitutes ‘habitual’ or ‘finite,’ and the bartender wonders if I’d like to order something or just came there to cry in the corner (the establishments here contain equal parts of both people, obviously).
The obvious next stage is ‘Depression,’ and that is where I currently reside. There is no possible way anyone can learn to speak Czech — you can’t even say the words for ‘four’ or ‘closet’ with a human mouth, and even if I could, I wouldn’t know how to ask for four closets in the correct manner; I would probably just say “I am was being four closet” and then cry in the corner while little three year olds recited flawless Bohemian poetry. I am looking forward to ‘Calm Acceptance,’ wherein I realize that communication with other people is wholly overrated. After all, I am generally misunderstood in my native language, so why have unreasonable expectations in another one? Why have unreasonable expectations in any situation, like that a bar exists for any other reason except to cry in the corner, or that a day is capable of existing at a temperature bearable to human beings? I’m sure the Czechs have two verbs for the lowering of such expectations, and just as soon as I finish sleeping with this omelet town, I’ll learn them both.