A Funny Story

There are many ways to look at this story, whether it is a coincidence or a fluke or whatever, it is one we are going to remember for a while.  It all started on a mild Prague evening on February 16th, it was dark but not a stormy night.  After a great meal, we got back to the parking lot, got back into our cars and set course for Nuremberg.  We punched in the navigation coordinates and set off.  Alfa, being a beautiful but temperamental Italian machine that it is, developed navigational speech impediment.  No turn by turn navigation, no music, no phone connection through the stereo.    So we fiddled with it, as we were trying to get out of  the old town in Prague, missing one turn after another and listening to the radio, which is never fun.  Finally we got out on the highway, and started heading home, radio started crackling as the reception worsened – it was time to pull over and deal with this.  After missing a couple of gas stations, I finally managed to slow down and manoeuvre to a quiet gas station with not a single car on it.  To bring speech back to the car we needed to reset the  system and to do that we needed to pull the plug off  of the battery.  Luckily the battery in the Alfa comes with a quick release clip, so the entire operation took about 30 seconds.  Problem solved.

After  the system was reset we started fiddling with the clock in the car.  We were almost ready to go when out of nowhere a van pulled up and blocked out way out.  I thought to myself what are the odds? The entire gas station with 8 bays is empty and this tool pulls up and blocks my way out.  We soon realized what the fuss was all about.  Two armed men in yellow vests got out of the van and knocked at the window and started mumbling  in Czech.  We were all a bit frazzled and none of what they said made any sense.  So, they look at us, and repeat everything in German, again confused as hell, we finally ask if they could say it in English.  Puzzled, they asked for our passports, confused that we have German plates, speak no German, and have no clue what they are on about.  Well, the passports were in my man bag, in the trunk, and of course since we just reset the electronics in the car, I could not open it.   The trunk would not open with the key, and it would not open manually by pressing the button, and the emergency release in the trunk was blocked by the inserted cargo net blocking access to the trunk.  After trying to open the trunk at least 3 or 4 times and the Customs Officials getting a bit impatient I finally remembered to initialize the key by simply closing and opening the doors.  After doing this twice the trunk popped open.  Passports in hand they scrutinized them again even more confused.  We are in the Czech Republic, on Canadian Passports, with German plates and German insurance documents but born in Poland so we should understand what they are saying in Czech.  After a few more words in Czech and fewer in English we finally realized that we did not have a toll sticker which was required to be on this part of the highway.  As such there was going to be a fine which will need to be paid in the amount of 500 Kć.  Naturally, we had no Czech cash left as Evelina spent the rest of it buying gum and sweets.  At this point I was invited to the van…..

The van is of course a mobile office. with two tables and two chairs and a computer, plus some guns and other stuff Customs Officials would need.  I was issued a ticket, and was able to pay it with my credit card.  I think I signed about 4 or 5 documents that I received the ticket, then that a ticket was issued, then that I paid for it, and that the payment was received.  That took about 25 minutes and while I was sitting there signing the papers the family sat in the car not knowing what was happening.  After my fine was issued, paid, signed for, I was able to go to the gas station and purchase a 10 day toll pass for 310Kć.  I returned to the car, and we set off to go home.  As we pulled away the Customs guys are waving us down again! The night seems to be going from bad to worse.  The older of the two guys runs for the car,  we stop and open the window and he says, I was just waiving good bye, but since I am already here let me put this sticker on your windscreen where it is supposed to go so you don’t get stopped again.

We finally pulled away after a 30 second stop that took almost 35 minutes.  We are 120km from home, and we have about 30 min to make up in lost time, to make it home at the same time as Mozejkos so that they don’t have to wait for us outside the door as they have no clue what has happened to us.  We made it home about 2 min behind them, and that was a great drive.  What a day, what a   night – really what are the odds of everything going wrong, but working out in the end.

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