The “Honest” Mugger

After our orientation at Karoli on Thursday, most of the Calvin students left the dorm to go on independent travel trips to Zagreb and Vienna. In the end, only Julia, Maddie, and I were left. Silence reigned in the dorm.

It was awesome.

I slept the most amazing sleep I’ve had since I’ve been here, now that no one was shouting until two in the morning. The next day, I felt so energized (and most of the pain was gone), so I headed out to do some souvenir shopping in the trade market and on Vaci Utca. You can get some pretty good deals if you’re willing to walk for a while; I kept telling myself, “I could get cheaper.” And look at that, I could.

After that, I came back to the dorm and watched movies, also for the first time since I’ve been here. I popped some popcorn for 嵐の夜に, which appears at first to be a kid’s movie but is decidedly not. I’ve seen it once before and wanted to refresh my memory. After that I watched ストレンヂア 無皇刃譚, a movie which I own and missed seeing. When I’m home, I watch it almost monthly. 🙂 It’s truly a masterpiece of smooth animation and an excellent OST blended with sound (if a little misinterpreted) Japanese history.

Wouldn’t point that out except that that’s what my English/Japanese cross-departmental honors thesis is on. 🙂


After finishing those movies, I headed out to a small cafe to meet up with Adrienn and her sister. The cafe was great, and we stayed there for a few hours. The owner, an Australian man working with a Christian youth mission in Budapest, shook my hand and asked me if I was a Yankee or a Confederate. When I confessed that I was a yank, he said he might not let me in! He was joking, of course.

He was very kind; Adrienn, if you recall, walks with two canes. He picked her up and carried her down the steps, then massaged her feet. What a great guy!

So we enjoyed the cafe and talking about Budapest, Hungarian, Karoli, and many other things. When it came time to leave, I saw Adrienn and her sister off on tram 49, then sat down on a bench at the stop to await tram 47 to take me to Albertfalva kitérő.

A man and woman approached me and sat down next to me. Because I had heard that the cafe may be loud, I brought my noise cancelling headphones. Therefore, I had a small red shoulder bag with me. The man tried to get my attention and said, “Beszélek magyarul?”

Instantly I was suspicious (well, more suspicious at least. I am always inwardly suspicious of people who sit or stand right next to me in public). Why would he ask if I spoke Hungarian? We are in Hungary — that should be the assumption. Rather than play into his game, I answered “I’m sorry” instead of “Sajnálom, nem értem.”

“You speak English?” he said next. His female companion continued to stay silent.

“Yes,” I said.

“Please I’m sorry this is tram stop….” He then continued, in broken English (and some German) to explain (with a “please I’m sorry” at the beginning of each and every sentence) that his phone was “kaput” and he needed 100 forints in order to ride the metro. I said that I didn’t have it, and he said, “It’s not that much.”

Okay, buddy. I don’t know how many other people you’ve done this to, but you’re not pulling the wool over my eyes. Take a look at this fancy list detailing why I know you’re lying —

1. You asked me if I spoke Hungarian
2. Your English was interspersed with German even though you yourself made it clear in your sentence structure and word usage that you do not actually speak German as a native. Therefore, you have memorized this spiel (yes, pun intended) in three different languages in order to get money from the three main groups of people in Hungary — English, German, and Hungarian speakers.
3. Similar to above, your only correctly used German sentence consisted of “ist kaput.” I took German too, my friend.
4. You wanted 100 forints. That will not buy you anything for the metro, tram, or bus.
5. You made clear that you had no other money, therefore I am sure that you didn’t need the 100 forints to add onto whatever money you had in order to actually get a ticket. You needed only 100 forints, starting from zero. Therefore, as above, it wouldn’t have gotten you anything.
6. You sat next to me on the side on which I was holding my bag. I am not about to open my bag for you.
7. The other person at the tram stop was much closer to you but you came straight to me without asking that person.
8. I fail to see how the fact that your phone “ist kaput” affects your getting a metro ticket. You are three feet from the ticket kiosk, which is still open. If you got here on the metro, you have a ticket. If you don’t have a ticket, why are you here? In the case that you did not arrive here on the metro but knew you needed to ride the metro, why didn’t you bring the money? And if you need to call someone to come pick you up for whatever unlikely reason, you don’t need your phone in order to do that.
9. Your girlfriend person said nothing the whole time. If this were a real emergency, she would be trying to help. Somehow.
10. When I told you, “Oh look, here’s a tram full of people, ask them,” you didn’t. Crowd too big for ya, buddy?

I’m not stupid. In retrospect, when he asked if I spoke Hungarian, I should have said, “あ、ごめんなさい。分かりません。外国人ですよ。And then I should have kept insisting 分からない、分からない。でも、ここでたくさん人がいる。誰か聞いてください。That would have been more fun.

Somehow, Japanese seemed like an unlikely language in his repertoire.


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