24 January, 2006

Žao mi je means I’m sorry

The other day I was slow in getting ready in the morning and was running behind. So, in order to avoid being too late for church after stopping by a kiosk to buy bus tickets, I told Michelle that we could share a two-way bus ticket that I already had in my wallet on the way there, then she could buy one for both of us for the return trip. Right before boarding the bus, I unwittingly tore the ticket in half along the fold separating the to/from sections of the round trip ticket and handed one of the halves to Michelle. The problem with this was that in order to have the ticket stamped, the ticket-holding passenger must insert the ticket into a slot in a machine, and to do this, the ticket must be long enough for one to hold onto it while stamping it. (This is tedious to describe, but crucial to the story. I should also mention that I have been riding buses in Croatia for a good 4 months, so this was not a new concept for me.) So, Michelle, obviously discovering that her ticket could not be stamped, just tried it once out of propriety and moved on through. I, however, feeling embarrassed that I had caused this non-stamping issue, decided to really try hard. And I succeeded in losing my grip on the ticket, leaving it stuck, unstamped, with the edge of the ticket flush with the opening of the slot. The incredulous bus driver was forced to unlock the machine and tip it forward so that the ticket would fall out. But the ticket didn’t fall out. He stopped the bus and got out. After a 1-2 minute absence (which felt like an eternity), he returned with another bus driver, who used some special tiny pliers to retrieve the ticket. He fixed a withering gaze on me as he ripped the ticket in half and handed it to me. All I could do was stammer a mortified, blushing “žao mi je, …uh…oprostite” before rushing to sit down. I still don’t know why Michelle didn’t disown me right then and there.

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