Monday, July 23, 2012

Metro Blues

For some people riding Metro trains it is like going to the bathroom, second nature. If you are one of the very unfortunate people who has to earn a living by having "Take the Metro" as part of your route plan to work, then you will probably know what I mean. For tourists the Metro can sometimes be quite an experience, very fast and very organized, especially if you are a South African who at home tries to avoid anything with the word "train" in it... suburban train, gravy train, whatever train. For some tourists it could be quite a challenge to figure out how the system works, and even though it is usually very simple, the colours and names and directions and zones really make it challenge to decipher the first time. Now add a language that you don't understand and see how your heart rate rises just by the thought of getting onto the Metro. 

I've just had my second ride on the Metro in Prague this morning. The most daunting thing about Prague's Metro is the names of the stations. They are quite hard to pronounce, but once you get the hang of it it gets better. When I arrived at Prague Airport I managed with the help of some other tourists to get to the station where I had to get off. Fortunately for me I did not have to change lanes, because in rush hour that could get you lost forever, like a stray dog falling in the middle of peak traffic in Johannesburg. You just don't know which way to run; you get knocked off your feet very quickly. This morning I took the Metro to the airport. My route to the airport also involved a bus ride from the last station. I hate figuring out bus routes even more than Metro routes. Bus drivers in foreign cities usually don't come over as the most helpful people and the fact that you have personal contact with the driver, compared to no contact in the case of the Metro, it even makes you more uncomfortable to ask a stupid question like "Is this bus going to the airport?". Fortunately my first trip to the hotel prepared me for some of the "obstacles" I might have to overcome on my way back to the airport and I arrived at the airport with absolutely no interferences or worries.

What amazes me most on Metros are the facial expressions of the people making use of this mode of transport. I guess we all look similar when we are on our way to work but I am sure most people look better when they are on their way home. On the Metro it is all the same, no matter which time of day it is. I absolutely avoid making eye contact, but somehow I still get the feeling that when I do the other person is saying to me "Please help me get out of here". I just get the impression that none of them really want to be there, but I might be totally wrong because for me riding on the Metro is like taking a roller coaster ride at an amusement park, never knowing what waits around the next corner.

This morning something weird happened. I was taking the Metro from the city centre to the outskirts of town. Because I was going in opposite direction than most of the people going to work, the train was getting emptier as I we were getting closer to the end of the line. Finally we were just about 7 people in the coach. A guy in his early twenties were sitting on a seat and was nodding off. I saw him nodding off, but didn't pay much attention to him. Then at some point he must've completely fallen asleep and fell from his chair hitting the floor smack bang with his face. I got the fright off my life when I heard the bang behind me and seeing this guy on the floor thinking at first that it might be a heart attack got me completely rattled. I wanted to jump up and help him, but then I noticed NO-ONE in that coach made ANY attempt to move. I was not sure what to do. The guy obviously did not have a heart attack or anything and slowly came up totally bewildered from his nightmare. I don't think he ever thought that getting knocked back to reality from a dream could be so unexpected and painful. What scared me most was that the other passengers' faces didn't move at all. No emotion, no nothing. 

I am starting to wonder if we are alone on this earth, or if we are sharing Metros with zombies from other planets. Is this what riding the Metro does to a person? If that is the case then I will stick to my F800 GS...

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