"Fare-dodging" can be fun, even when you have a ticket

When I was travelling by metro to work a few years ago, I made a bet with myself. Muzeum - where lines A and C intersect - is a favourite spot of ticket controllers. Sure enough, they were there, and even accompanied by a couple of police officers. I had a ticket because I was no longer a teenager, when it was more funny than embarrassing to ride without a ticket. Anyway, a slight wave of adrenalin flooded my brain because this reflex will probably never completely fade away.

So, there they were, picking conspicuous looking persons from the hurrying crowd. I thought: "If they control me, my boss won't be at work today." Surely enough, the ticket controllers chose me, and my boss broke his leg that day. At that point, I realized the unusual treacherousness of the controlling mechanism in Prague public transportation. In fact, it is an elaborate game, whose rules are as complicated as only they can be.

There are no turnstiles allowing one person at a time after reading a ticket code; the Company rather employs ticket controllers instead. The threat of running into one is omnipresent, and it is only for those with steady nerves. Most people give up, and decide to buy a ticket. If the person in question happens to be in a metro station, the fun is over. But on a tram or bus station, the quest begins. There are no ticket machines, so one naturally approaches a newspaper stand. Stands, however, mostly don't sell tickets, so our player must find a tobacconist's. If he or she has no luck even in this discipline, he must take the risk and dive into the train, bus or tram.

At this point, the most thrilling part of the game starts. Prague turns truly Kafkaesque, as the player starts suspecting all men and women aged 20-60 of being a ticket inspector. Until recently, they wore no uniforms, and even now the blue professional outfits are not obligatory. Perhaps that is why the atmosphere in the vehicles of public transportation in Prague is always so gloomy and depressing. It is usually very quiet, no one laughs and no one communicates, at least in comparison with other European cities.

The peak of the game is naturally the very encounter with the controllers. The experienced know that while changing underground lines, the dumbest thing is to use the transfer corridors. Instead, one has to get outside and re-enter again using the right entrance. Nevertheless, even with such precautions, inspectors can at any time pop out in the most bizarre places. It is at this point that the art of excuses begins. The smart ones say that they forgot their card at home, which gives them the right to bring it later to the headquarters of the Prague Public Transport Company. If they manage to buy the right type of a coupon, they win the game.

Since I buy coupons regularly but want to keep playing, I have invented a special self-betting system. I do it the other way around, and my task is to look suspicious enough to be chosen. I believe that it will bring me luck, as with the broken leg that time, even though the magic has never worked again. Needless to say, the game Ride For Free and Don't Get Caught is one of the most popular Czech activities along with beer drinking and mushroom picking.