You may or may not have heard about the recent late-night arrest that took place at city hall in Cluj after a man, rumored to have been piss drunk, climbed to the top of the scaffolding encasing the building’s elegant corner tower, which is currently undergoing restoration work.
When I stepped into a taxi that same night, half-drunk and garrulous as per usual after another unforgettable night on the town, my taxi driver told me what he’d seen earlier at city hall: numerous police cars, an ambulance, even a firetruck—a huge commotion.
“They thought the guy was going to kill himself, so they were shining this big flashlight up at him to get his attention, but he didn’t seem to notice any of it.”
I suggested an alternative theory, that maybe he was just rocking out listening to music and didn’t even notice. This the driver doubted, preferring instead the theory that the guy was likely out of his mind. But why couldn’t both theories be true?
When we got to the red light facing city hall, it seemed like a good time to pull the citation from my pocket and show him an invoice totaling 500 lei given to me by the police for my little stunt. The guy was beside himself. Turns out both theories were indeed true.
Credit needs to be given to the citizens of Cluj and the emergency services protecting the city. This hobby of mine, often referred to as ‘urban exploring’, is something I’ve done in many countries and I’ve never been met with such a rapid and well-organized response ever. The police said that an anonymous citizen informed emergency services upon seeing a climber, which is a testament to that person’s concern for others.
Had the purpose of the climb actually been suicide and not simply to take photos of the city, as stipulated in the “additional information” portion of the fine, someone would have been there from the start to alert the authorities. Ultimately, this is what a good citizen ought to do. I have total respect for that.
What’s more, the police were surprisingly kind once they realized I was neither suicidal nor on meth. My saving grace was probably that I spoke to them in Romanian—i.e. on their terms—and pretty soon a few of them had become quite friendly. After a short 20 minutes or so at the police station, they let me loose to grab a taxi home.
The funny part was the priceless look I got from the clerk the day I paid the fine. She took the fine and read the offense to herself, and then whispered something to her coworker before looking back at me with a wry smile that seemed to say, “So this is the guy who climbed our building.” I wouldn’t have wanted to pay the fine anywhere else. But take my word for it and admire city hall from a distance—it looks much better that way.
For more lowbrow literature and mediocre photos, check out my blog at Lowbrow Review.