Welcome to Bratislava! (watch your step)
Welcome indeed! Allan Stevo posted a great essay over on 52 Weeks in Slovakia which made me remember the above story from my early Bratislava days… He feels Slovakia is “stuck in the 1950s” in many ways (13, as a matter of fact). Here’s a good little excerpt from way #5 (“Pre-Lawsuits”):
When you step onto a bus in Bratislava, you can tell who is American and who is Slovak. The American does something stupid like stand next to the gigantic, powerful, iron, door-closing-contraption. Where an American comes from, the gigantic, powerful, iron, door-closing-contraption would never exist because it’s so dangerous. The Slovak on the bus, from the littlest nincompoop of a child to the most hunched over elderly miser, has the sense of not putting his foot next to the closing contraption. Inevitably, the American will eventually learn that doing so is a bad idea – you will get hurt, no one will feel bad for you, the ambulance won’t come for you. If you finally do convince the ambulance to come for you they are going to charge you a lot of money for making them come to you for something so incredibly frivolous.
The Slovak on the other hand, seems to behave more responsibly at all times as if thinking to himself or herself “I am in charge of keeping myself safe, if I do not keep myself safe, despite the many promises of my government, I will most likely be left to die right there on the street, as people walk by me and avoid eye contact. And if I am rescued, I will have earned the unceasing ridicule of family and friends for my lack of commonsense, so much so that I will come to question whether it might not have been better to have stayed laying on the sidewalk with my broken leg until I died of dehydration three days later.”
Yes, I even believe that just three minutes sitting on a bus in Slovakia can make an observant American think “Man, are we a bunch of common-sense lacking weenies.” Or maybe he or she might think “This place is senselessly dangerous.” Either way, there is a noticeable difference in what safety means and who is responsible for keeping a person safe.
Everywhere you turn in Slovakia there are holes, things you can trip over, slip on, have dropped on you, run into, or poke an eye out with. There is really death right around the corner, yet people don’t fall into, for example, the sewer on the path near my house that was left uncovered for about four years.
Nope, Slovaks are street smart in many ways. And they often aren’t weenies either. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a random elderly man or woman brutally fall and then pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get right on the next bus, so they could go home to nurse their wounds. Calling the ambulance here usually seems like something that is just outside of the Slovak character. These people can be tough.
Of course, you’ll also want to check out way #6 (“Eating lard is allowed”), #7 (“Alcohol is allowed”), and #8 (“Pig-killings”) — aw heck, you’ll want to read them all. Several of them are things that I’ve been either drawing OR meaning to draw about Slovakia! I get the feeling Allan’s sense of being “stuck” in the 1950s isn’t necessarily a bad thing… Anyhow, thanks, Allan!
And while we’re talking SLOVAK PUBLIC SAFETY, you might want to review our series “Daniel finds a cause,” which blew the lid off the Bratislava Skyscraper Stairway Security Scheme Scandal!