The Window Nook

Adventures in living abroad

A Plea for the Status Quo

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The other week, the powers that be decided to close various metro stations for repairs. Being relatively new to this city, I was unaware that this translated to ‘avoid trams at all costs’. The many passengers who would ordinarily be happily spread out along a long metro train were now forced to squash into small, outdated trams. And me? Well, I wasn’t going to walk, so I bravely pushed into the mass of passengers and found a relatively open spot near the window. I have to say, trams were definitely one of the strangest experiences for me as I adjusted to Prague. Buses, I understand. Trains also.  But trams? They are an odd combination of the two, belonging both to the road and the rail. They create another line of traffic in the center of an already multilane road. Many trams here in Prague are small and older, with diminutive windows, single rows of seating along the outside of the passenger area, and tall holding rails down the center of the tram. During rush hour, the only limit on the number of passengers is whether or not any newcomers can cram themselves in. Can’t reach a holding strap or rail? It is impossible to fall anyway when you are mashed against the person next to you. In a nation of outdoor enthusiasts who value the wide open spaces of the countryside, this has led many to perfect the ‘Tram Stare’, a sort of blank expression of suspended presence. This is the look of one caught in a windy rainstorm, who has hunkered down as far as possible into their jacket and is busily imagining themselves on a beach somewhere else. Even when not riding a tram, one is still painfully aware of them. Many moments spent pondering the gorgeous late afternoon sky over Prague Castle have been interrupted by the agonized squeal of a tram negotiating a tight corner. The older trams can be recognized by the higher pitch and longer length of their screeches, a sound which carries even through windows into flats near the trams lines (such as mine). The newest trams,however, contain three elongated sections of seating, with wide aisles, highly polished wooden seats, and tall tinted windows. These trams have larger electronic boards to clearly announce  the next stop. Also contained in the board is a large clock which states exactly how late you currently are to your appointment. Drab gray and faded upholstery have been replaced by polished chrome and tastefully muted shades of red. These larger trams glide nearly noiselessly along the tram lines, allowing one to easily say goodbye to a friend at the tram stop without having to shout over the squeak of the arriving tram. Last week, I had the rare experience of riding one of these newer models. It was awful. I missed the antiquated seats. I missed the crazy quirkiness of the windows that may or may not open and steep steps down to the doors. I even missed the tortured screech around corners. It was as if a well-loved teddy bear, with curmudgeonly face, missing button eye, and worn fuzziness, had suddenly been replaced by a packaged barbie doll. Oh, I’ll eventually get used to the new trams. I may even come to like them. But I will always miss the inimitable character of those older trams. They are simply unforgettable.

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Author: annekemae

Enjoys writing, photography, reading mystery, historical fiction, and travelogues, chocolate in any form, and tulips.

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