Language Gaps (or Locked Doors [or Irrational Fears])
My current accommodations are dorm-like. I would say it hearkens back to my college experience; however, my first two years of college consisted of a room with a walk-in closet, private bathroom, and kitchenette. My third year in campus housing put me in an old Holiday Inn leased by my college. This demoted me to a comfortably sized room, private bath, and communal kitchen. In my current setting, I am in a private bedroom with a kitchen, toilet, and bathing room down the hall.
There are a couple elementary questions that I have about the housing that even more elementary Czech has prevented me from getting answered. The prime question is regarding staircases. Out of principle, I typically use the stairs. When luggage or floors exceeding about five levels are concerned, I may opt for the lift. This said, you can imagine my discomfort in not finding stairs that will take me from the ground floor to my third (American-fourth) floor. I am able to take stairs to the second floor, but then I must proceed through a hallway (on a male floor) to a central staircase to get up the final level. I'm not entirely sure on their perspective regarding co-eds, which makes me hesitant to take this route.
Tonight, after getting a bit restless in my room, I decided to go for a walk, having only walked maybe a mile or two earlier today. I gathered my things and headed toward the lift. When I reached the doorway at the end of the hall, I found it locked. For shame! I foolishly tried my own key, but to no avail. I felt trapped and evacuation routes flashed through my mind. I went to the center staircase that takes me to the second floor. Though this staircase does lead all the way to the ground floor, the doorways to enter those floors seem always locked. I tried the staircase and found it still thus. I returned to the second floor and stood before the open door. Absurdly fearing entrance to a male hall, I walked back to the third floor and my room. There I camped and listened to some hall mate playing a lovely piano rendition of "Just the Way You Are" in the adjacent room. Hearing stirring about the hall, I determined to arm myself with some vocab and seek some answers (or at least contemplate seeking answers).
As a guise, I grabbed my notebook, a tea bag, and my current read. I ventured toward the communal kitchen (which I was scared to enter due to a closed door) and noted a middle-aged woman standing with luggage near the lift. I put the kettle on and then tried to open the door to her. Still locked. We communicated in Czech through the door until my Czech failed me. She then communicated in sparse English that her daughter was fetching help. Then appeared the cheery Czech cleaning lady and the daughter. The mother was freed from her cage and, in the hoopla, I determined to find why the door was closed. Through ample hand gestures, broken Czech, and broken English, I gained an answer. Sundays that door is locked, and one must take the route from the central stair to the second floor, through the second floor hall to the end staircase (adjacent the lift) and proceed to the ground floor. (The only detail left uncertain is how long the door is locked. I got the impression that it is locked until 22:00.) Pleased by the knowledge and steeping my tea, I geared up to ask about the still-absent curtains in the shower room, but exiting the kitchen with tea in hand there was no cleaning lady to be found.