Michaela Merz

The Ticket Inspector (story I was told in Prague 25 years ago)

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I am the sort of person who completes the tax return truthfully, who does not enter the crossroad when red light is on and who never is a stowaway. Since hardly anybody is always nice, also I happened to make a mistake. I had broken my leg and therefore I had to stay at home for almost two months. One evening the telephone rang and the hysterical voice of my hysterical friend who lived only several streets off me entreated me to come to her immediately. Then she hanged up the receiver. I tried to phone her back but I could not get through. I dressed up, took my crutches and set out. I decided to take a tram; the stop was just in front of my house. I got in, the fact that I did not have a ticket did not come to my mind. The half empty tram started moving. I was sitting on a front seat, close to the driver and felt somehow inconvenient. At the very moment we were stopping at the first stop, I suddenly realised it. The inconvenient feeling was a man, slowly moving from behind, forward, stopping at each passenger for a while. The tram was to about shut the doors and I got off as quickly as possiblewith my broken leg and the crutches. It had come to my mind that I did not have my ticket and I definitely did not want to be penalised. I tumbled off the tram, however, in the middle of the road somebody put a hand on my shoulder and said: “Will you show me your ticket, please.”“I’ve thrown it away,” I replied in a flash.”Then come and show me where,” he continued pertinaciously.”You are authorised to control me in a tram, however when I get off, the road is not your zone, being a lawyer I must know it,” I worked out.”I am sure you didn’t have the ticket,” he went on. “Nobody would believe you that I asked for the ticket on the road, you simply tried to clear off,” he concluded.I noticed that he was more and more uncertain. “So, first,” I kicked up a row as I was sure that only a plucky cheek could save me, “in that tram there were at least three people who knew me. I live here, you know. They would witness the way itwas. Second, who would believe your story that I tried to run away with the crunches, my leg broken?”He refused to give up. “You either will pay the penalty or give me your identity card,” he snagged unfriendly.“I’m on the way to my neighbour and I don’t have any card, I’m not willing to pay any penalty,” I insisted on my word, realising that the clouds were gathering above my head.”Well, let’s go to the police station” he said casually.”OK, let’s go”. I replied trying to keep my voice self-confident but my little soul trembled. You cannot walk too quickly on crunches and it was rather long way to the nearest police station. I started talking and tried to persuade him that he didn’t have any chance as I was a foxy lawyer. Should he succeed to bring me to the court I would trample him underfoot, using even false testimonies, if necessary. He accompanied me silently and listened to me carefully. I thought he was pretty shattered. Passing a neon sign of a night bar I suggested continuing our discussion in there. He agreed. I was out of the wood. We spent a pleasant evening drinking red wine. At midnight I said I had to go home. He paid the bill and we parted as friends. I never told him the truth about the fact that I was not any lawyer but a student of economy.

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