Sunday, June 14, 2020

Prague Pickpockets Going Broke During Lockdown

(With a Nod to The Onion)

Ever since the coronavirus took over the world, businesses have closed, people either work from home or lose their jobs, and we wonder if this is the next human reset button from that queen bitch Mother Nature. The COVID thang has impacted all creatures great and small. But nobody has been hit harder than the unseen masses of Prague workers who rely on the most personal of contact: the pickpocket.

Touch and Go

Prague has been hit especially hard during this crisis as it produces nothing other than tourism and marginally driveable cars. But the industry hit hardest by this crisis is the age old profession of pick-pocketing. Where there are tourists, there are pickpockets. And Prague is a capital of both. When the waiters aren't padding your bill, taxis will. And if you still have money left on your way back to your hotel, you can rest assured that a pickpocket will relieve you of whatever you have left.

Until now. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and nothing is more desperate than social distancing. You can't hug, shake hands, or even bump fists without a icky feeling of potential contagion. And you most definitely cannot pick anyone's pocket.

Just like the swarthy, smarmy pimps posing as taxi drivers exist to rip off tourists, the seedy underbelly of Prague life is propped up by the humble pickpocket. This artful dodger is firmly entrenched in the very fabric of Prague life, so much so that all the guidebooks are filled with warnings about pickpockets.

And the pickpockets pay no mind at all. Cops gave them a wink and a pass, and Czech laws are so fucktarded that a cop must actually witness a pickpocket taking your wallet from you before they will step in. That's because cops are paid off, but that's a different story.

Thief Trade in Danger

But now the pickpockets are seriously worried. How are they going to make a livelihood in the age of social distancing? Also, once the Czech borders slammed shut tighter than a frog's asshole (and that shit's watertight), no tourist targets were anywhere to be found.

Speaking with Honza, a self-proclaimed pickpocket, he was vexed. How was he going to milk the sacred cash cow of tourists when there were no tourists?

"I have no idea what I'm gonna do now," Honza wondered. "This fucking country has been closed for nearly 3 months. THREE MONTHS WITH NO TOURISTS! How am I going to eat when there are no pockets to pick?!? These local Czechs are so broke they can't pay attention, so where will I get my income? There's not exactly an unemployment option for people in my line of work!"

Honza (not his real name) is not even a gypsy. Czechs blame gypsies for all the crime in the Czech Republic, but that's just a smoke screen. Especially when it comes to pickpocketing – because gypsies are so damn bad at it. A pair of loud mouthed gypsy kids approaching a tourist will not be getting anywhere near their pockets. They can only produce results at the very bottom of the pickpocket food chain – on the night trams, preying on passed out drunks.

"I trained for making widgets," Honza explained, "but the fuckin' country turned from Commieville to Mickey D's overnight and the widget factory closed. Who knew nobody would buy widgets any more? Am I supposed to flip McBurgers now? No. Fucking. Way!"

"So I did the only thing a sensible Czech would do: I learned a new trade. Sliding your hand inside a target's pocket is the ultimate rush – and payday! Hell-LO! And it's dead easy in Prague. Trams crammed with loud Americans and Brits staring at their phones nonstop. They're not even paying attention to their pockets! Candy from a baby, I tell you – muahahahaha!"

But now they've got signs everywhere: Wear a mask. Stay 2 meters apart. Avoid unnecessary contact. How is Honza and the mighty army of black market petty thieves going to survive this crisis? Prague taxi drivers have flooded the social media forums complaining about how they haven't been able to rob a single tourist for months. And the scourge of Uber. And Czech waiters can no longer pad the bills of drunk tourists.

Survival of the Fittest

How will Czechia survive this crisis? How will thieves make a living? Fortunately for Czech parasites, there is always a way to make money for the lucky few who got free flats and entire buildings under post-Communist restitution. Even when the entire Czech economy shut down for 3 months, landlords will still get their drop of blood from their tenant hosts. The Czech government has decreed that those who could not pay their rent during the coronavirus crisis could not be evicted from their flats. But they would be in debt to their landlord indefinitely.

So if you want to survive in post-viral Prague, you'd better buy a block of flats (if you have a spare million bucks), or learn a trade that will never go out of style in Prague: the gentle art of pickpocketing.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Notes From the Lockdown Part Deux

or A Breath of Fresh Air...

It's now officially been 2 full months since the Czech borders slammed shut and the everyone started wearing masks. Stores closed, restaurants closed, pubs closed, and a certain Wide Body Jetsetter huddled in his hovel while he shivered, shook, and gently rocked back and forth in a fetal position.

No, I am not afraid of getting the coronavirus. All that shivering, shaking, and gentle rocking was withdrawal symptoms. How in the holy hell was I supposed to get my pivo and smažený sýr?

Straight From Mother Nature's Poxy Lips

Just when you thought it was safe to go about your normal dull routine, Mother Nature chucks a killer virus into the world for shits n giggles. Thanks, Ma. Aren't there enough things already out there to kill us? Sharks, grizzlies, tornadoes, lightning, drunk drivers, cancer, terrorists, and NRA members? Nope. Apparently we humans are getting too big for our britches and we must be stopped at all costs. Mother Nature is a bitch.

That ho has been trying to kill us since we crawled out of the primordial ooze. After millions of years grunting and flinging poo at each other in caves, we finally got the renaissance retrofit. Age of reason, mental expansion, and the ability to kill each other in larger and larger numbers. So why does Ma keep chucking all these fucking viruses at us? Black plague, small pox, AIDS, SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Mother Nature hates us, I tell you. Her and the animal rights activists.

But we keep coming up with cures for most of the evil kisses blown from Mother Nature's Poxy Lips. As soon as we do, we let our guard down. We go back to our dull routines until the next crisis comes along.

Not a Plot

The worse thing about the internet is that there's no filter. The sheer megatons of bullshit circles the globe at lightning speed through broadband lines pushing gigaquads of data into the minds of people with no judgement whatsoever. Social media is one giant incubator for cockamamie ideas, and no idea is too silly to share. Hmm. This here wackjob comment has 3.2 million shares. It must be true, thought nobody with a brain, ever.

Fourth Horseman
We were put into panic mode while people started dying. So we looked for answers from the media, the internet, our 'fearless leaders.' WRONG. Nobody knew shit. Especially the politicians. Did you hear the one about how the virus was deliberately created in a lab in China? You did? You really shouldn't listen to Trump. You'll rot your brain. Or you'll inject weed killer or some dumbass thing.

A nice doco I watched on Netflix (the only thing to do during lockdown) was called Coronavirus Explained. All those charts and graphs were neato, especially with jazzy background music. The condensed version: this virus is a clever little bugger. For something not even considered to be a living thing, a virus reproduces like rabbits on meth. And the creepy part: it evolves to become a more effective killing machine.

All those charts and graphs showed how a virus like SARS killed people too quickly, so we got a handle on it by this little concept called quarantine. But this COVID bugger doesn't kill everyone. It wants to survive to reproduce, so killing all of its hosts is counterproductive. This tricky bitch hides in carriers without symptoms, who go on with their dull routines, passing in on to other carriers and/or killing buttloads of people. This virus is hip to the whole quarantine bag.

So while people in China and Italy started dying in huge numbers, the Czech Republic slammed the borders shut and locked down the country. Prague became a ghost town, people huddled in their hovels, and the country practically stalled. Meanwhile, over in Merrucka, El Trumpo and his Quixotic lapdogs managed to do fuckall, and now the U.S. has more coronavirus deaths than anywhere else in the world combined.

Can We Breathe Yet?

People are slowly hitting the Prague streets again, some with masks, most with their noses sticking out over the top. The tension was loosening and I could feel the pent-up frustration of pent-up people dissolving.

So I decided to have a Sunday outing, first by returning a newly-purchased laptop for service (they don't make 'em like they use to!) at Alza. I wandered through the near-vacant Prague Market area after I dropped off my lappy at the geek hut, and I heard the sweet sound of live jazz music wafting on the breeze. I followed it like a spastic beatnik until I found the source: a jam session in a fenced-in beer garden. They weren't serving beer, but damn those cats could jam. I sat on a bench nearby and listened for a while. It was the sound of freedom.

For Strength!
Then I decided to go and test out the free movement principle, since the beer windows in select pubs are also serving food. So I went over to the same pub mentioned in my first Notes from the Lockdown post, U Sadu. I missed my Sunday Guinness, what can I say?

So I sat there on outdoor seating conveniently spaced 2 meters apart, and ordered my Guinness from an actual waitress, who actually brought it to me at my table. I stared at the glorious cascade of black and tan beer bubbles shimmering and rising to form the creamy head. You can't tell from the photo; I was wearing shades and a mask. But I was getting all misty, I tell ya.

I took in the lay of the land. Joggers blew by with sneakers plopping over cobblestones, a baby chirped at a table nearby, and the waitress brought me a menu. When I asked if I could order fried cheese, she said yes. I wanted to fall on the cobblestones like a sack of beer-soaked potatoes and kiss her feet with joy. But I didn't. Social distancing and such.

I lowered my mask to drink my first pint. I had to. Sucking a pint of Guinness through my mask would be like being waterboarded by the Irish Republican Army. Soon I was on to my second, third, and fourth Guinness. And then the fried cheese. The mask lay unworn on the table.

After 2 months without fried cheese and beer in an actual pub, the clouds parted, the heavens opened, and a ray of sunshine beamed upon my full moon face. I completely forgot coronavirus for exactly the amount of time it took me to wolf down 4 pints of Guinness and a plate of fried cheese and french fries.

And O the joy which flooded my soul. And my guts!