The Grey Pen Goings

Navigation through a World that's Wild at Heart and Weird on Top.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The End of the Line

So one of the wonderful things about Prague is its full transportation system, replete with three underground lines, twenty-six tram lines, and a plethora of buses. They're fairly clean, they run often, and they get you where you need to go...

Sorta. there's also strange gaps in the system: I can travel across town in 25 minutes, which is great, but to get from a spot in the Northeast to the Southeast might take an hour, which I could just about do walking. And if you hit the peek hours of human traffic, ye gods if the damn cars aren't packed to the gills! You'll get jammed in tight, the stench of humanity rife all around you.

(That stench being somewhere between sour vomit and feces, roughly.)

Trams do run all night, though, and that got me into a bit of a pickle last night. Having attended the Caledonian School Christmas party on the west side of town, I staggered out to catch a night tram to take me home. The 59 drops off about a mile away from my flat, so I got on.

Promptly after falling into a plastic chair I realized how heavily drunk I was. I'd been up since 7 and it was 2:15 now, and I had more than a few beers in me. Drunkenness sloshed weightily against my innards, and I pressed my eyes closed and leaned against the window to steady my mental ship.

I remember us crossing the Vltava, still 8 stops and 15 minutes away from Ruska, my stop.

The next thing I knew the conductor was shaking me awake and forcing me off the tram. I'd fallen asleep. Spent 50 boozy minutes bouncing through Prague, through its beating heart and filthy Center, through the close suburbs, into the outskirts then past them to, to, to...

I had no idea where I was. The stop said Nadrazi Hostivar, a far off outpost and minor train station. Train tracks randomly crossed in front of me. It was 3:20 and only a couple shady men where around. Frost sparkled on cars in the pale gleam of a streetlight. I shivered. Civilization was somewhere above the high-walled bridge in front of us.

Eventually a tram rattled up to us. The conductor fussily asked to see our travel passes, guessing rightly that the other two men were homeless shifters only looking to cruise in warmth. They were barred entrance but I got on wobbily, reeling more from exhaustion than alcohol at this point (though in truth, it was hard to tell--alcohol and exhaustion are indeed a potent mix).

There are so many strange facets to Prague, so many corners and neighborhoods and ins-and-outs that there's no way you'll ever see them all. English teachers actually get to see a fat lot more than most native Praguers, since we're scuttled all over the city to teach. And it was a bit strange to see this new strip of Prague, an undeveloped roar of the East, under the cold glow of a starless night. But by gum, I saw it. And I managed to stay awake for the subsequent 30 minute tram home. And managed to walk the uphill mile home. And made it to my stiff old bed. And as soon as I could, I crashed.

The moral of the story, if there must be one, is probably something like this: Night trams might seem like your friends, but sometimes they'll leave you drunk and in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning. Friends like that you can only trust up to a degree.


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