I need to do trips like this more often.
VIENNA, Austria- We went to the zoo to start out day three of my trip with my two daughters to Vienna. On days one and two I would warn them that this trip wasn’t going to only be about recreation — there would be in-depth cultural and personal reflection elements as well — but by day three they knew I was full of shit.
What can I say about the zoo? It was fun …
I rented a wagon and stuffed Rivka in it for nap time. Eight-year-old Petra got jealous that her little sister got to ride in the wagon and she didn’t. I relented and gave her a turn.
But she would soon redeem herself when she declared that she wanted to leave the zoo early so we would have time to buy her mother a present.
A nice gesture that came to nothing — we looked around but couldn’t find anything worth buying and I didn’t have any money anymore anyway. I had about twenty euro left and no way to get any more.
Bathrooms and locker rooms are conundrums for a solo dad with an eight-year-old girl. She wants to go into the women’s room but I can’t watch her in there. Mix in not very secure locations like train stations and this becomes a bit of a challenge.
Alright, I let her go into the women’s room at the train station. I went into the men’s room with two-year-old Rivka. I came out just in time to catch a ragged, messed up looking dude going into the women’s room when Petra was still in there. It seemed like the start of some kind of story that everybody warns you about but you don’t really believe happens.
I yelled at the guy. I tried English. He didn’t get it. He looked somewhat East Asian so I took a flier and tried Mandarin. He didn’t get it.
“Women’s room! Women’s room. You’re a guy. The men’s room is over here. Wrong one! Wrong one!”
He looked at me confused like I was some creep bent on freaking him out. Who knows, maybe he secretly identifies as a woman and I was some old fashioned, ignorant and intolerant POS who still believes that expressed gender and physical sex should be criteria for bathroom selection?
There was little more that I could do at that point. The dude disappeared into the bowels of the bathroom with my eight-year-old inside. Is something bad really going to happen? I asked myself. Probably not. But this wasn’t enough to keep me from going in too — now there were two dudes in the women’s room — and finding Petra.
However, on the guy’s way output of the bathroom two women were on their way in and they startled each other with looks of surprise. He then got it, looked at me, laughed toothlessly, and said thank you as he walked by.
I met a tattooed guy on the platform. His face and neck were covered in tattooing. I took some portraits.
On train the train back Petra made friends with an art student from Vancouver whose parents were from Hong Kong. She’s told Petra that she was an illustrator and they started drawing together. Then Petra asked her for a lesson. She chose my face to provide instruction with.
A couple of years ago Petra was diagnosed with precocious puberty.
“When they did an x-ray on my brain they told me that my brain skipped ahead three years,” she recollected. “I was six then and I had the brain of a nine year old. So I’m eight now so I should logically have the brain of any eleven year old.”
She then thought for a moment.
“I don’t know where those three years went.”
Once you start talking to people on trains or buses there is a reasonable chance that the people around you will jump in and everybody will start talking to each other. You see this all the time on Greyhound buses in the south of the USA. Someone will start singing songs and soon an entire bus of strangers is singing altogether.
While we didn’t get our train wagon all singing, we did get people talking. I’m drinking beers and messing with people, my kids are asking everybody questions, people are telling us about themselves. I tease a girl in the seats across from us whose boyfriend is compulsively waving to her on the platform.
“Is he going to stand there waving like that until the train depart?”
“Yes, I think he is.”
“Do you think that’s creepy?”
“I think it’s love.”
“I think it’s creepy.”
The girls had fun on the train back. “It feels like I’ve only been on this train for one minute,” Petra said as we disembarked back in Prague.