Budapest Story (with dogs)

 

Presidential Palace 

 So I took my postcards to the post office near the hotel, which is in the castle district. Very old, quiet, beautiful… NICE. I went to the window and said “Hello. How are you? Do you speak English?”, all in Hungarian. Smiling hopefully. The woman looked at me like I’d just kicked her dog and “Nem. Nem.” shook her head. I think I offended her. But I wanted to send my postcards and I’d forgotten how to ask for stamps in Hungarian because, really, how much Hungarian could I possibly be expected to remember? I’m just a silly American. I tried handing her the cards. It’s obvious what I needed. She grunted. Grunted! I looked under the desk, thinking I had somehow inadvertently kicked her dog. Hungarians are all about dogs, by the way. They’re out walking with their dogs everywhere. A good many aren’t on leashes. They’re part of the populace, just out going about their business. Sometimes I thought the dogs were leading the people. But this woman had left her dog at home. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe it had nothing to do with me at all. It’s possible. She told me “seven thirty” and I, interpreting this as the price, passed her a two thousand forint bill. Smiling. Smiling. (See how I’m smiling? I’m a stupid American, it’s true, but I’m a friendly stupid American. Take pity. I’m smiling.) She pushed some coins at me and a pile of stamps, then got up and walked away.

Crap. What the hell am I supposed to do with all these stamps? There’s twice as many stamps as postcards and they’re all going to different places: US, UK, Ireland, Italy… And how do I get them mailed? There’s no box to put them in and this woman has made it clear she wants no part of my distastefulness.

I turned to the little desk and sorted them, then just started licking and sticking. They’ll either get there or they won’t. All the while something was churning in the back of my mind though: She gave me the wrong change. I turned back and there she was, ignoring me from a distance of three feet. One full step brought me to the counter. “I gave you two thousand” in English and without a smile. She said nothing. The woman with no English reached under her desk blotter and pulled out a thousand forint bill. She knew exactly what she’d done. She didn’t have to recount the change even. She knew she’d shorted me and by how much! I put my money in my purse with my postcards and walked out. Stupid American! Well, I guess I showed her!

Except I hadn’t mailed my cards and later, when I tried to pay at the market, the thousand forint bill turned out to be fake.

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1 Comment

  1. Ben said,

    June 13, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Funny stuff, J!


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