Have you ever tried to drive a car in the centre of Brno, at about three or four o’clock in the afternoon? If not, don’t ever try it. And if yes, you will probably agree that the easiest and quickest way to get around the city, especially when you really need to be somewhere on time, definitely does not involve a car, but, as you may have guessed, the tram. And what is more, travelling by car would never provide you with such interesting observations, situations, and kinds of people as the tram. In fact, when looking for a great topic for some sociological research, the trams would definitely be the right place to go.
So, who are the most distinctive “tram characters” one can meet? Let’s start with the students. They are usually divided into two major groups. First are the desperate students. You can find them nervously browsing through their notes, trying to cram the last pieces of knowledge into their brains. Notice the bloodshot eyes, the shaking hands, the quiet mumbling, and sometimes, the slight cloud of smoke above their heads. They appear especially in September, November, before and after Christmas, in February, April, and at the end of spring (please don’t feed them).
The second type are the hung-over students. Very often, they are the same people you saw the day before, back when they were the “desperate students” (the only difference is that, now, the pre-examination despair has changed into a post-examination alcohol despair). Hiding their vacuous faces behind dark sunglasses even though it’s raining outside, gasping for breath at the nearest open window, they may appear a little lamentable and wretched. Please, show compassion and offer them a place to sit (but, as with the previous type, DON’T FEED THEM).
Moving on from the students (and especially from the hung-over ones), we get to a totally different sort of people, which you definitely should not offer a place to sit. They are the “proud people”, well-known for their “I-am-not-that-old” look, which, if it was possible, would kill you right at the moment you stood up to leave your seat for them.
Actually, thinking about it, good deeds done in tram are often not so well appreciated as you would expect them to be. Stepping aside to let a woman get on the tram could cause the door to close right in front of your nose. Offering a seat to a woman because you think she is pregnant will backfire right after it leaks out that, in fact, she is not. When you want to help a young mother with her baby carrier, you could also easily end up with a giant slobbery spot on your shirt (well, okay – in some sense, this could be a toddler’s expression of gratitude).
But do not be disappointed. The trams are not just a kind of scary “freak show” (although it really does look like it sometimes), and you do not always have to feel as though you’re caught in some perverted fairy tale in which bad wins and good loses. The tram could also be a place for miracles. Imagine all the old men and women with their crutches, moving slowly on the platform. At first sight, they look defenceless and harmless, but when the tram door opens, they suddenly gain an amazing vitality, and with youthful energy, they knock out all the other passengers just to get a place to sit. Have you ever heard of any medicine that could cause such a thing? We do not need doctors anymore. Trams are the cure!
You may now think this whole article is more or less exaggerated. In that case, there is no better way to find out whether it is or not than to get on the tram and make your own observations. Soon, you will find out that the list of people you can see and the situations you can find yourself in when travelling on the tram is really endless. There, you can meet a man dressed in a giant black monkey costume, see Prince Charles’ wraith, observe a trapeze artist practicing his skills with the handrail, come upon an old woman trying to sell you gold rings, or find a group of boys dressed like they are going to participate in Spartakiáda.
But be careful! You should never forget that you are a part of the whole “tram world“ as well. And maybe a day will come when you notice a girl sitting behind you, watching you carefully and writing down some notes. Do not be surprised, then, if you find yourself in an article like this.
Author: Barbora Vlachová
This article originally appeared in the spring 2013 issue of the Exit magazine published by The Book Club at the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University. Online version available at www.phil.muni.cz/wtbc/home/magazine/exit-1/