I walked to the stop, a dual stop where both trams and buses collect passengers. It was a dreary day, gray and humid. The sky burdened with heavy dark clouds hung over my head as mist turned into drizzly cold rain. This dreadful weather replicated the heavy feeling inside of me. I let many people down, my mother, my best friends, and so many others. They all had a reason to be disappointed.
I didn’t have a ticket but there was a kiosk at the far end where tickets, tobacco, and newspapers were sold. With a few coins in my pocket, I could purchase a ticket permitting transport to the other side of town.
A bus was coming.
I read 584, this was my bus but without a ticket I should not get on and there was not enough time for me to buy one. I watched hopelessly as the bus went by.
Trams in this town are not as fast as buses, but they run more frequently. At this stop I can catch either number 8 or 13. Both could take me to my destination even though they take significantly different routes to circumnavigate the center of town, recently designated as the pedestrian zone.
I should get to the kiosk, but to get there I had to cross two sets of tracks, each with its own designated stop where people huddled under black umbrellas waiting for their number to arrive. They all looked grim. They huddled together but no one spoke. Their glassy eyes looked in various directions, they were introspectively lost in a nondescript distance. They were looking at anything and nothing. I could not tell what was stirring inside of their minds, possibly everything or nothing at all.
I looked up, tram number 8 was arriving at the stop. Metal wheels squealed on wet tracks as the heavy wagons came to a halt.
I still had no ticket. Should I get on the tram without a ticket and hope that a conductor does not catch me? I didn’t want trouble, I was not in a mood for a confrontation, and I had no money for a hefty violation fee.
Slowly but with determination, people started pushing their way into the open door of tram number 8. They were not aggressive, but rather they used the last of their willpower to get into the wagon. There was no personal space, no distance between the individuals. It was a calm mob with wet black umbrellas dripping water and poking the lapels of dark wooly coats. No one cared and nobody minded. The mass simply oozed into the blue wagon.
I decided to let tram number 8 go without me, and kept walking towards the kiosk to buy a ticket. Tram number 8 closed its doors and slowly moved on the tracks to begin its clunky journey across town.
As I walked to the next track, I noticed that a newer model of a tram pulled into the loop, tram number 13. I never understood why the city transportation department decided that tram number 8 would use the old model carriages and tram number 13 would use the newer ones. People say that these new trams came from a small city in the Netherlands where the city council upgraded to the most modern vehicles. Our city received the old wagons and painted some of them blue then put them into service. What was old and discarded in the Netherlands was new and welcomed by us. We, the poor neighbor, were expected to be happy and grateful with hand-me-downs.
Did we not deserve new?
Were we not capable of acquiring new things even though we worked, and worked hard?
I decided that I would board tram number 13 without a ticket. I already let two opportunities pass me by.
If I keep trying to buy a ticket and don’t board a tram, I might be waiting here at this stop for a long-long time, getting wet, going cold, growing old. Growing old is the one thing that we can be sure of — growing old and disappointing.
Another mass of faceless people crowded into a wagon, wet, tired, cold, spiritless.
As the last two people crawled up the two slippery steps into the wagon, I sped up towards the front door of the tram, walking fast, then just a little faster. As I got closer, the doors closed and slowly the tram moved away.
Darn, I missed it.
That’s OK, the next tram will come shortly.
I looked up and noticed the tram engineer staring directly into my eyes. She stopped the tram. I interpreted that as the driver giving me a chance to get to the wagon and get on board. I put a skip into my step but the driver was not looking at me; she was looking right past me. As I increased my pace, she moved the tram forward and slowly entered the main track. This tram was gone and all I could see were its rear red lights cutting through the rain and the fog that was now covering the ground like a shaggy carpet.
The dual bus and tram stop was now empty. I stood there between the two tram tracks with rain pouring down onto my head and dripping over my shoulders.
Now, it was only me and a person sitting inside of the kiosk where one warm lamp illuminated the space ornate with colorful boxes of tobacco and black on white newsprints — nothing good to read in them. No news only opinions that we, the masses, should accept as facts.
I looked around, a new set of hopeless faces begun to crowd the station. A few stood where in about twenty-three minutes bus number 584 will stop. A few people stood by the track for tram number 8 and a few more waited for tram number 13. This scene will repeat over and over and a different, but same, mass of hopelessness will board the wagons to be transported across town going to no-where and growing old, fast.
Big Thanks to my generous editor Bella Y.