Sunday, June 12, 2005

cowering behind a pillar

I suspected something when they all walked in and sat at different tables, loud and obnoxious, each ordering a pint of beer. The hair on the back of my neck began to raise. Then I saw it ... a sugarcoated, jelly-filled donut went sailing across the room.

I was in the middle of a donut fight at Imperial Cafe. As a glass crashed behind me, I grabbed my things and dashed for cover. Cowering behind a pillar, I wished I had my camera with me.

Meanwhile, fifteen middle-aged blokes from England made a war zone of the cafe turning over tables and warding each other off like lion tamers with their chairs.

At one point a fellow dodging a sugary missile stumbled to the ground next to me. He looked up and saw me clutching my laptop and books behind the pillar. From the floor he reached out his pastry-clutching hand to me. “You want to throw one, luv?”

I stood there wide-eyed, actually considering his offer. Had I been among friends, there’s no doubt that I would be right there in the heat of the battle, but instead I opted for a different course. I don’t know where it came from, nor do I understand the exact logic behind my reasoning. All I know is that out of my mouth came, “Noh, zhank yoo.”

What was I doing? Why was I pretending to be German? I don’t know. Perhaps the same reason I put on the proverbial “blond wig” and played the role of a ditz when Jeremy the helicopter pilot told me that he was at the point in his life that he was ready to get married and have kids. Role-playing is my defense mechanism, I think. I decided to see where this role would take me.

As other fellows left the fray of battle and found me behind my pillar, I continued my facade of stilted English and shy manner, hoping they would leave me alone. However, when the war of day-old pastries had died down, I felt a tap on my elbow.

“C’mon, dear. The battle’s finished. Give it a shot. See that fella over there in the striped shirt. Give this donut a good toss and peg him.”

“Noh, noh! I cahn’t.”

“No, it’s okay. It’s all over ... finished.”

“Noh, I cum ouoot and evrybuddy zhrow aht me!”

“Look, I’ll go with you. You just walk up to him and peg him.”

It was tempting. How could I live with myself knowing I had been in the middle of a donut fight in one of the finest cafes in Prague and hadn’t thrown a single donut myself. So I emerged from my pillar, approached the group of “warriors,” took a donut from one of their hands, pointed at the fellow with the striped shirt.

“Zhis vohn?” I asked the fellow who had told me to throw it. At his nod, I chucked the thing point blank at the surprised stripe-shirted Tommy.

I turned to go back to my belongings and WHAM! I got nailed in the back by one of the pastries. Upon inspection of my things I noticed that they hadn’t quite gone unscathed. Jam speckled my books and jacket ... not to mention my pants.

So while the band played on, there I sat finishing off my tea while the cafe’s staff cleaned up.

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