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Couch Potato by Trade
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Couch Potato by Trade

Umělec magazine 2008/2

01.02.2008

Viki Shock | out - story | en cs de es

(dedicated to Filip Příhoda)

Perhaps you’ll agree with me when I say that it’s no fun being unemployed in today’s society. And if you’re not college-educated, then not at all. A person is registered at the labor office, where more often than not he is offered some dubious job and receives state welfare payments only in amounts that prevent him from having to live on the street or die of hunger. Meanwhile, he often has to choose between the two.
A little while ago I too joined the ranks of these unfortunate people. I soon came to understand that I would not find work at the employment office. And I began to contemplate, what profession would someone like me—a second-rate hack, who up to now had worked on TV crews or in scholarly libraries—be qualified for? Of course, I can’t leave out my quarter-year experience as a doorman at a bakery. My word-processing friends assured me that I would never get a full-time job at a daily newspaper or weekly publication. And I could not get by on just freelance contributions. So then I turned to old friends from the “wet quarter” in hopes that perhaps, in the jovial pub society, I would learn about some lucrative position.
The owner of the pub where we were sitting said that were I a charming, young blonde woman, who was not afraid of consuming large amounts of alcohol, he would dress me in a majorette’s costume and employ me as a so-called beerleader—the barroom equivalent of a cheerleader. It seems that in recent months fewer people have been frequenting his pub. So it occurred to him that a smartly-dressed, attractive girl, who would triumphantly march to his bar accompanied by the sounds of an orchestra and in a short time drink a noticeable amount of liquor, could entice the regulars at his bar to drink more. This would increase the turnover. Unfortunately I’m not a woman and he wasn’t interested in a male beerleader.
As time passed and the number of marks on our bar tab grew, the number of varied proposals on how to sort out my precarious situation increased as well. One friend, who recently married well, proposed that I should look for a rich wife to take care of me, rather than for a job. So he immediately began to write the text for a personal -ad:
“A one-time attractive, still single, unsuccessful poet, albeit a rather successful alcoholic, aged 29, without children, without own apartment, unemployed, however with own extensive book collection, seeks charming, young, thoughtful and caring millionairess. Motto: Your money will keep us happy until death do us part!”
My friend hesitated for a second at the word “millionairess,” noting that we could also write billionairess. But bearing in mind conditions in the Czech Republic, we decided it would better to use the original millionairess after all. The still relatively sober barman, who at that time had just brought another round of beers, pointed out to me that only an infantile retiree, caught up in the memories of her First Republic youth, would answer such a want-ad. I tried to reflect upon his words, and eventually had to admit that he was probably right. Fine, I won’t get married. But then, what can I do? What do I know how to do? What do I do most often? And finally it came to me!
Most of the time I focus on doing nothing. I just lie around on the couch with a book. I toss, turn or lie there motionless. Or, in short, I lie there, lie some more and then continue to lie. Sometimes those close to me even call me a couch potato. And that’s just it! I’ll make a strength from my weakness. I’ll become a professional couch potato! I can already see the ad slogan, “Lying about is an all-around demanding activity, so don’t be lazy and rent yourself a couch potato, who will lie about for you!”
The key target group will be the nouveau riche and the remaining numbers of old noble families. If they can afford to employ footmen and maids, then why not employ a couch potato? My job will consist of lying about their homes during the day in different rooms. And should a visitor call on them and ask the hostess “Who the heck is lying on the divan in your foyer?” the lady of the house will answer, “Why that’s Mr. Victor, our couch potato! He’s been lying here for two months now and he’s very sweet. And can you believe that in his free time, when he needs to change positions from side to side or onto his stomach, that he even writes poems! We can’t praise him enough! Do you mean to tell me that you don’t have your own couch potato yet? Well you have to rectify that immediately! If you want, I will lend you Mr. Victor for the weekend, but you have to pay him well. He earns as much as one thousand crowns per hour for lying about!”
As soon as I uttered these thoughts, all my friends were inspired beyond belief. They proclaimed my eternal glory and called spots as replacement couch potatoes, should I get a case of the runs, and thus not be able to do my job. And so, early next morning I left the pub to greet the new day with a crazed feeling that a thoughtful, hard-working man like myself would not after all be lost to this cruel world!




01.02.2008

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