After starting my day with tea, my social media ritual, and then stumbling across a video of a busker in NYC being treated unjustly and then arrested, I have a bit of a fire in me. I have a background in performing. It talks a lot of…well….balls to be frank to perform. Not only perform but perform by yourself in front of numerous strangers.
Like other countries, you need a permit to perform on the streets in New York City. There are laws and very specific regulations to follow. This particular busker seems to have those laws memorized for some reason. You can never prepare for the corruption of the police anywhere you go. Remember that. Sometimes you can be doing absolutely nothing and still be harassed. Wrong cop on the wrong day.
When Elise and I decided to travel to Prague for a weekend, it was on a whim and one of our last weekends living overseas. Normally, I would have researched a place prior to going. This time I only had enough time to download some sights to go to while in the city.
We arrived from a 20 hour bus ride from London. It was long. At one point I needed to use the bathroom and there was no promise from the driver that he would wait for me while I went to find one.We finally got there. Exhausted. We also had to find our hostel. We
stumbled off the coach, grabbed our bags, and went for the restroom. You had to pay, so we went to an ATM nearby to get some of the currency, but once again I had not done my research so I wasn’t sure the exchange rate equivalencies with crowns to dollars. We just grabbed the minimum in order to use the restroom.
At this point we knew that we had to get on a train and go to the main train station, and then our hostel was in walking distance from there. With our duffel bags full and weighing us down, we staggered
through the train station. We were tired and were not necessarily trying to hide that we were definitely tourists. We pointed at signs, argued with one another, and studied signs in a foreign language we knew nothing about. Suddenly a man bumped into Elise and showed her something on his belt. She didn’t really look down because we were really trying to figure out how to get tickets to get on the train. We somehow felt like we were in the right place, but we didn’t have tickets yet. I suggested that maybe we buy them on the actual train. He then knocked into me right after Elise and said, “Tickets please.”
He was dressed in normal clothes and looked a bit intimidating. I didn’t get a good look at the badge on his belt because he flashed it so fast. Apparently he and his friend were the train police. I called back Elise saying that he wanted our tickets. I asked him where I could get some since we were lost. He then insisted on seeing our
passports. Elise took her’s out and handed it to him. Something was not right about this situation. He was odd and yet seemed like he knew what he was doing. I held onto mine and showed him. He tried to grab it from me and I told him “no.” That was when I stopped believing he was police. He said that they would arrest us “stupid Americans” since we were illegally on the train platform without tickets. I told him that we were lost and more than happy to purchase tickets, but we just could not find where. He then refused to give Elise her passport back until we gave him a thousand crowns. At this point after the bathroom purchase, I could figure out that was about maybe around $40-50. He kept on harassing us and calling us names.
He finally took us to an ATM and I agreed on about half the amount and he had to show us where to buy tickets. Elise put her card in and
the ATM wouldn’t work. I then put my card in and it wouldn’t work. We tried once more then I turned to the ugly, mean man, and I said “Well looks like your stupid Prague machines don’t work!” He tried then and I demanded the passport back. He wouldn’t. Elise tried once more and it did work. We gave him the money and he gave us the passport and the direction of where to buy tickets. It was so annoying and not the greatest welcome from such a beautiful city.
Morale of the story: Try not to look like tourists and in turn bringing attention to yourself, but mostly NEVER LET ANYONE HAVE YOUR PASSPORT. NEVER EVER!
Police or not…they are corrupt everywhere. Hang on to your passport!