Why’d you gape at me like that?

Author: Michal Kratochvil
Location: Brno
This encounter with a Rom wasn’t entirely pleasant for me, but it taught me something about how Roms think.
Late one evening I went to a tram stop. It was dark, the weather was nasty, and the stop was in the middle of a large housing development, surrounded by woods. It’s generally considered a dangerous place; nobody likes to go there alone at night.
When I had almost reached the stop, I noticed that somebody was already standing there. It was a guy. I didn’t like this, so when I passed him I made sure not to look closely at him. I walked by quickly and went to stand farther off.
But the guy came up to me, pounded his fist on my back and said in Czech with a Romani accent: "Why’d you gape at me like that? What do you want? You want meto smash your face?”
I got scared. The guy seemed to be looking for an excuse to start a fight. And he seemed drunk.
I didn’t know how to react.
The guy kept saying that I had looked strangely at him. “What do you have against me?” he asked, and kept pushing me.
I saw now that he was in fact a Rom. Maybe there was a gang hiding around the corner waiting to rob me and beat me up.
The situation seemed so absurd that I felt I had to talk about it with the Rom. “I wasn’t looking at you. I just noticed you standing there. Maybe people look at you strangely because you’re a Rom – but I wasn’t doing that. I have nothing against Roms as long as they behave decently and don’t attack me.”
To my astonishment, this totally changed the situation. The guy started to speak in a very different tone. He asked me not to be angry with him. He didn’t mean it the way it seemed. Everything was all right. And he put his hand out for me to shake.
I didn’t feel like shaking hands with him. Everything wasn’t all right for me. But I knew that if I didn’t shake hands, that would make things worse. So I put out my hand and acted friendly.
Then the guy asked me what kind of music I liked, and whether I liked a certain group. He was crazy about them; that had been the music of his youth.
So now he just wanted to chat.
But my tram came, so we shook hands again and I got on.

One Response to “Why’d you gape at me like that?”

  1. That just shows how wrong first impressions can be.

  2. That just shows how wrong first impressions can be.

Leave a Reply