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Srbija 2020

The Great Push

The decision for me to push my car from Mercator to my home was deeply imbued with inat. The fact that I did not have a massive coronary in the process was due to the intervention of the Unexpected.

It was a normal evening in the White City. I had spent most of the day rushing from Point A to Point B via Point Q (which was of course under construction) and had arrived at item number 629 on my list-of-stuff-to-do for the day:

“Go to Mercator.”

Generally speaking, there is nothing atypical in the least about this. I jump in my ancient vehicular transport, verify that it is all in one piece despite the suspicious grinding noise from the right flank, and head off to the Mecca of New Belgrade Groceries which is less than a kilometer from my home. Or so it seems from behind the steering wheel.

In a hurry (why? don’t ask me but getting groceries is all about speed), I leapt from the car and dashed inside, produced a sub-list of stuff-to-buy (while we are here, please note the foreshadowing device for a later blog about list making…), and darted from aisle to aisle, zipping through the checkout and back to the car in the speed of light.


Back at the car, however, tragedy strikes. As I approach and slow to a stop in front of the car, I notice something which gives me pause. And then a feeling of dread.

I had left my lights on.

Normal humans driving normal cars would not give it a second thought. I, however, knew what awaited me. The key turns, the motor groans, the noise stops. The key turns again, the motor is silent. It only takes a minute for the battery to give up under the strain of headlights. And thus was I stranded.

I went to several people in the garage – Dads waiting for families to return with shopping carts, people milling around the garage trying to look trendy with cell phones surgically attached to their ears. Whenever I began to ask if they had jumper cables, shoulders would turn, eyes would roll. In fact, NOT ONE person even looked me in the eye once they realized I was asking for their help. The exception was the car wash guy. I ask him to help me. What can I do? he asks. I need a jump start for my car. He looked at me with disdain and said, “This is a car wash, you need a repair shop.” Naturally I thanked him heartily for this important information.

Frustrated, angry with myself about the lights, and getting more than a little hot under the proverbial, I walked back to my car and the fateful decision overcame me. I’ll show these guys, I thought, I will PUSH MY CAR HOME. Bre!

Out of my parking space, one heavy step at a time. Into the narrow lanes of the garage, making various noises. I made a point of looking each of these heartless individuals in the eye as I passed in the midst of a noble act of inat, an act of spite so profound that it induces bodily harm. In the middle of the highway, with people actually driving, the idea struck me that I had perhaps been supremely stupid. I had given in to the inat, thinking in a warped way that I was in fact making them all feel guilty and small for not helping me.

Yeah, right.

During the microsecond in which all the lights at the intersection are changing and everyone is stopped, I made a dash for it – that is as much as you can dash with two tons of Mazda on your shoulder. I built up a little speed and began to jog the car across. From somewhere in the background, I heard someone yell out, “Be careful!” It sounded like good advice, I thought.

The load seemed lighter on the far side of the intersection. I was making good time I thought. I had SHOWED those unhelpful garage guys. Then I began to hear the conversation from over my left shoulder:

“Where does he live, Terazije?”

“Move over to the side of the road!”

“Get in the car, Chris!”

They know my name? I glanced back and saw two people I had never seen before pushing from behind.

“Do you KNOW this guy,” one of the men said.

“He’s my husband.”

On the right rear side, there was my wife pushing as well. The four of us landed safely in front of my building and finally stopped. The gentlemen turned out to be an American Serb from Chicago and a friend of his. “I just came for holiday – to relax a little,” he said.

“And push other people’s cars around,” I said, gasping for air.

MORAL OF THE STORY: There are a number of things that I could have learned from this little interlude, not least of which being DON’T FORGET TO TURN OFF YOUR LIGHTS. I had acted out of unfounded righteous indignation when nobody deigned to help me start my car, but in fact there was really no one to blame but myself. In a large city, like Belgrade, Boston, or Bangkok, you become invisible to most people when you need help – but there are some who always come through. This I learned.

I also learned that my wife had jumper cables in her car.

PS: To the Good Samaritans who used their vacation to help out a fellow in distress, my heartfelt thanks!    

Oh dear! You know you could

Oh dear! You know you could have tried that taxi rank next to Mercator. If push came to shove (sorry couldnt help it) I'm sure one of those guys would have had a cable.

or how about one of those

or how about getting one of those cars that beep loudly and annoyingly when you dare not buckle up, or leave the key in, or leave the lights on....

vipovanje - batajnica, mississippi

Here's to the state of Mississippi,
For Underheath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find.
Whoa the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin' when it reads the present time.
Whoa here's to the land you've torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!

Here's to the people of Mississippi
Who say the folks up north, they just don't understand
And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
The sweating of their souls can't wash the blood from off their hands
They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here's to the schools of Mississippi
Where they're teaching all the children that they don't have to care
All of rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
And every single classroom is a factory of despair
There's nobody learning such a foreign word as fair
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here's to the cops of Mississippi
They're chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door
Their bellies bounce inside them as they knock you to the floor
No they don't like taking prisoners in their private little war
Behind their broken badges there are murderers and more
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And, here's to the judges of Mississippi
Who wear the robe of honor as they crawl into the court
They're guarding all the bastions with their phony legal fort
Oh, justice is a stranger when the prisoners report
When the black man stands accused the trial is always short
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the government of Mississippi
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they're always bogging down
And criminals are posing as the mayors of the towns
They're hoping that no one sees the sights and hears the sounds
And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the laws of Mississippi
Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay
While the Constitution is drowning in an ocean of decay
Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I've even heard them say
Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the churches of Mississippi
Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
And the Sunday morning sermons pander to their lust
The fallen face of Jesus is choking in the dust
Heaven only knows in which God they can trust
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

once, in my previous life in

once, in my previous life in late 1980s, i ended up with a disintegrated clutch in the middle of a freeway in south dacota (are there any freeways there or it was just a major road?). after some hours ot futile attemts to repair the bloody thing i gave up. i waved and waved and waved and tried to stop a car to get some help and car after car after car passed by and even a highway patrol told me to push it in the ditch and walk home (to mu aunt in ohio)... and then, hours later, a tow truck stopped and the guy, a naturalized german from frankfurt, towed it, repaired it and charged me a sixpack of beer. you are right. there are some who always come through.

now you know...

...that you can move a mazda :-)
next time you could try to call AMSS 987 and ask for help - this can cost you hours&hours&hours but is not so heavy ;-)


Small step for a man, a great leap for a mankind, bre!

LP MMM safely back in Ljubljana


my favourite description of "an average citizen of serbia" used to be "often immature and (self)destructive (did i hear someone mention inat? :), but you always get help with car ignition within 3 minutes" (the cynical version says that no decent balkan soul would miss such a cheap way to feel good). this honestly was my experience in 25 years of life there. is it possible that things changed so much in the last couple of years?

If you asked for help

If you asked for help anywhere outside Merkator, somebody would definitely arrive to the rescue (if you disregard the imminent language barrier).

But inside of Mercator, that is the gathering point of a specific kind of people - not representative sample of our population (but this is a subject of a different blog).

Blok 45

I always say "hello" to my neighbours when I meet them in front of the building or in the elevator for example. Most of them reply back... There is one of them that never does...
One cold winter morning I went out with my husband and met him on the parking. He was smiling and TOO polite. "Vrey unusual", I said to myself... It tourned out that he couldn't turn on his car and needed our help! We helped him and he went...
Few days later we met in the elevator and he didn't even say "hello" to us... Strange people live everywhere probably... Maybe it is not important or relevant for the story, but he happens to be a famous painter... It seems that nobody told him he should at least say "a small hello" as well, not just walk around thiking that he is "so important anybody should admire him"... :(
You just were not lucky to meet the right person to help you... They do exist here somewhere in Belgrade. :)