One of my favorite parts of every school year was on the very first day when I received my class schedule. It defined my daily routine, from History as first-period home room, to Math for second period, to Physics and on through the day. It was nice to finally know where I would be and what I would be studying. I was, I admit, a nerd.
As a part-time teacher at Cyrilometodejska, a high school on Kraví hora, I still get a thrill when I see the academic schedule for the first time. I am the same way with FC Zbrojovka schedules and running-race dates.
This is why my schedule book is one of the most important physical items in my life. I get a new one every November to prepare for the coming year. I have it with me every day. And, when the year is over, it is retired to my bookshelf, chronologically, with my previous schedule books. I am, you might have guessed, a Virgo.
I could, I suppose, use Microsoft Outlook or an app on my smart phone, but it would just not be the same. My schedule book is a tangible item that organizes my life. It lists the things that I have to do, the things that I did and the birthdays/anniversaries for which I must purchase presents. It includes random notes and facts, recommended websites, contacts, and suggested menu items at the new restaurant in town. I would, honestly, feel more broken up about losing a filled-up 200kc schedule book than a year-old smart phone.
Twice, my schedule book was the center of an important, potentially life-changing event. Both times are clearly etched in my memory.
* * *
One time was after a slivovice-fueled Christmas party in 2009. (Actually, this one is not so clear in my memory.)
Piecing the scene together after the fact, using smart phone images and tidbits of information from my hung over colleagues, I believe that drunken dyslexia put me on the No. 89 night bus instead of the correct No. 98 night bus. My first clear memory was around 5 a.m., which would have been after about four trips back and forth across the city. My phone was still firmly in my pocket. But my backpack was gone. Inside the backpack were my wallet, my apartment keys, and — the horror! — my 2009 schedule book and a year worth of information.
It was not my proudest moment. I suppose it could have been a lot worse. My girlfriend (of only a couple months at the time) tried in vain to help me locate it through DPMB. (Her ability / willingness to excuse my idiocy was one step towards why we are now married.)
I am still reminded of that night every time I see the shelf with my old schedule books. They outline every day of each of those years of my life and they hold the details of so many important events.
It is as though the year 2009 did not even exist.
* * *
The other time involved my 2008 schedule book and it almost ended my life in the Czech Republic. When the Schengen Area went into effect, I was not exactly “legal”. Like many other native-English-speaking teachers, I had been leaving the country every three months to get a re-entry passport stamp and three more months as a “tourist”. With Schengen, I could no longer jump a train to Bratislava for the afternoon; instead, I had to leave the Schengen Area — in essence, go to London, Croatia, or Ukraine— for the stamp to buy more time to get my paperwork in order.
I chose London. When I disembarked at Stansted Airport, there was no line at passport control. That, it turned out, was unlucky. The uniformed official, a not unattractive 30ish woman, spotted the series of three-month extensions in my passport. It was a red flag. Apparently, when I flew back to Brno, if Czech officials refused to allow me to enter, I would be sent back to Stansted and England would have to deal with me, and the British didn’t want that hassle. I was asked to step into a waiting room to await a closer inspection.
Over the next hour, I developed a plan to embellish the facts of my life and slightly exaggerate certain details to cover the fact that I was actually just getting another extension as a tourist.
Eventually, I was brought into a small conference room. The same female official went through my backpack one item at a time. She asked leading questions to try to get more information. It was strangely personal. We were alone in a small room, she was taking my boxer shorts and socks out of my backpack, half folding them, placing them on the table, and asking me about my life: where had I came from; what did I do for fun; where had I traveled. She was trying to catch me in a lie, but it was conversational and not confrontational.
My source of income was Topic No. 1. Over and over again, I repeated the fact that I was independently wealthy and I was living with my girlfriend; that I had a lot of money and my girlfriend’s mother let us stay in her place for free; that I won a lot of money and I had been travelling around Europe for the past year; that I hit big on a bet at the racetrack and I travelled to Europe, met a girl, and I live with her in Brno; that I made $515,627 on a Pick 3 during the 2005 Breeders’ Cup with Hawksley Hill, Da Hoss and Kid Katabatic and, I don’t know, maybe this is the girl for the rest of my life.
The Achilles heel, I knew in the pit of my stomach, was my schedule book. A quick look at the individual pages would show regular hour-long meetings on weekdays that would be hard to explain as anything other than teaching and under-the-table employment.
After my clothes, two novels, a journal, and my electronic cords were out on the table, the officer reached for my schedule book. I had to say something. Just as she started to crack it open, I blurted: “That’s a nice ring.”
To my surprise, she stopped opening the schedule book and looked at her hand. A bright smile came to her face. “I just got married a month ago,” she beamed.
I had found my opening. “Married,” I sighed, pathetically. “That’s what my girlfriend wants.”
“Is that why you are here in London, alone, for the weekend?” she asked.
“I just need time to figure things out,” I sighed.
The official gave me an understanding look. I slumped back in the chair, trying to look as though I were struggling with the weighty issues of love and life and marriage.
“I think I’ve seen enough,” the officer said, putting my schedule book down. As she got up to leave the room, she leaned forward and said: “It took me five years to convince my husband to marry me. He’s glad that he did.”
Everything, of course, had been a fabrication. I was not independently wealthy and I did not have a bordering-on-marriage relationship. (The racehorses did exist, but Da Hass actually beat Hawksely Hill at the wire and cost me thousands of dollars. You always remember your losing bets.)
A few minutes later, the official was back with my passport. “Remember to invite me to the wedding,” she said.
I had an extra three months to get my paperwork complete. I did.
That all happened on March 7, 2008. I know, because I have it marked in my schedule book.