Michaela Merz

Public transport in Prague

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On the bus, the tram or the underground we always played the same game. The winner is the one who can ride longest without holding on with their hands. That may be dangerous, but in most cases children don’t think about such things. Then it was great fun and really challenging. With time on certain stretches I became a real champion. I knew the curves, I knew where it was quickly braked and I developed tactics to shift my balance very quickly. Very often I emerged from these competitions with my classmates as the winner. Much of this training helped me later in fencing. Such trainings should not be copied!!!! Tooth repairs are very expensive.

Today I am also travelling by public transport in Prague. But with the common sense of an adult and most of the time I keep one hand on a pole. But very often that is not enough. The sudden braking of the busses or the curves (the busses have become much longer) frequently bring me into demanding situations, where one hand is not enough. The more concerned I am when time and again I see people aged 70 or more, who climb into a bus, refuse the seats offered them, wrap themselves round the pole near the doors and try to keep their balance standing. I could never understand why they do so. Why don’t they sit down, especially when they are offered a seat.

Some time ago I discussed this with my father. For a few years he has been partially disabled but he also refuses to sit down. He explained that sitting down and standing up and that at a short interval requires more strength then standing. In addition he (and probably the others also) are afraid that if he sits too far away from the exit he will not be quick enough to get off. Ending up one stop further than desired, is for him a horror scenario. His arguments make sense to me. But I thought that although we are an impatient society which unfortunately no longer shows much respect for age, we are not so bad that the bus would not be prepared to wait while someone gets off slowly. It is enough to draw attention to oneself. An angry glance by an impatient person is only a glance…
We left the discussion with both me and my father stuck to their conviction.

On Sunday afternoon I got on the bus. After two stops four elderly, very smart ladies got on. Two of them had very funny hats. Two sat down and two remained standing. The bus began to move. The four chatted in a friendly manner, laughed and behaved themselves like respectable school girls. And as so often the bus had to brake sharply. The lady standing nearest to me flew through the air towards me.  I was able to catch her and prevent her from falling to the floor. I grasped her arm until she could stand properly and the bus also came to a stop. “And now sit down”, I ordered her. ” Do you know what it would be like, if you had broken your leg?”, I added. She looked at me in astonishment and apologetically. The other two made room for her and she sat down immediately. Perhaps I was too harsh, but I was really concerned about her. At the same time I hope that the experience will be a lesson to her. But I’ll probably never find out.

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