I feel that after more than a decade of life in Prague , studying inhabitants and visitors alike, I may now consider myself sufficiently acquainted with the subject for an attempt to classify the most remarkable specimen of passengers found in Prague’s trams, buses and metro trains.
Sooner or later, this will happen to you: You want to get off at the next stop and walk over to the door. Naturally there is about half an arm length between you and the door – just enough for another passenger to slip into the gap and get off before you. Usually those must-be-first people walk then at a swift pace to the next escalator where – again – they take the glorious first place and rise up in front of you like a winner on a podium. But, mysteriously, they now lose all interest in sustaining their fantastic lead. Suddenly it is a breeze to overtake them. They’ve achieved what they sought and their lives seem now void and pointless.
The same phenomena can be observed at bus stops – try it where the line 119 departs, heading for the airport: If between you and the road there is just enough space left for – say – a monkey, for sure one will appear out of thin air and stand in front of you – so close that you could kiss the back of its head. And that all just to get on the bus before anyone else.
Do I need to elaborate on the broad range of flavors that never fail to impress? Because of this odor so many people are not able to consume food in trams. The ill-scented are also the reason why a friend of mine advises against sitting on upholstered tram seats. Because, he says, there is no way to recognize if the seat is soaked with liquids, unless it is too late.
The aisle occupant
- They need to get off very, very soon and it cannot be entirely excluded that a malicious neighbor could block their way and refuse to move.
- The infamous Prague desert sun reaches only the seats located at the windows, making it necessary to stay in the shadow.
They may have to rush quickly to the lavatories.(There are no lavatories in Prague’s public transport.)
- Perhaps one day a stray flight attendant will find herself walking through a Prague tram with a trolley packed full of free food and beverages. Better be prepared.
- Why take one seat if you can have two?
The secret agent
You actually don’t realize immediately that they are secret agents. But something is suspicious about them. You just cannot figure it out. Then it strikes you: They carry a bag that must contain something incredibly precious, or dangerous. They have to vouch with their own lives that the parcel will reach its destination. Of course, handcuffing it to their wrists would be too conspicuous. So the only solution is to keep it in reach, occupying another seat, while other passengers have to stand.
The obstacle are mostly tourists. They don’t even need to carry any oversize cargo in order to be an obstacle. Their mere bodies suffice to block the passage. Some prefer to make a door unusable, others keep standing around ticket validators, showing no mercy for people who would like to get into or out of the vehicle.
A variation are passengers who stand in the aisle of a metro in that bottleneck between two seats, placidly reading a book that, judging by its size, must be a Russian novel.
I refrain from shaming particular nationalities. There is, however, cause to believe that the following hypothesis contains a grain of truth. It says: The bigger the country, the louder its people. This holds true particularly for people who are masters in using their nasal cavities as resonators and who manage to pass the vibrations on to the vehicle body inside of which the sound keeps bouncing back and forth, until it is entirely absorbed by the tissue of people who found themselves locked into that same vehicle.
Their typical habitat are crossings with traffic lights. The first five percent make it over the street on green, while the remaining 95 blindly follow in a kind of human chain reaction: If, in a pack, the person in front of you moves along, why on earth should you stay behind?
The same happens at the doors of trams and metros: Completely immersed in the gorgeous feeling of being invincible, they form a huge blister at one of the doors, slowly trying to trickle into a single wagon, while all other doors are empty and wide open. Rumors have it that some pack members actually want to be left behind – particularly in the case of school trips.
You often find them sleeping on a seat, sometimes in painfully contorted positions or stripped off their cloths around essential body parts. If they are awake, they can be incredibly fast when leaping to a free seat. The intoxicated are masters of balance, and they love to scare bystanders when they stagger along the tracks, suddenly cross just a few steps in front of an oncoming tram, pretend to stumble, and make it to the opposite pavement, where they eventually sink down with the sudden idea to have a refreshing nap right here and right now.
I am fully aware that this list is far from being exhaustive. There are also ticket inspectors who infallibly know how to spot a foreigner. There are pickpockets. There are drivers who seem to know even the routes of the “Vozovna”1 trams, if no one else does.
If I missed anything important, please let me know below.
Featured image by: Tim Lucas
- depot ↩