Tram Etiquette

I've always wondered why I didn't become a teacher.

I used to like helping my friends study when I was at school; then at the university; later enjoyed giving out explanations to some of my colleagues at work; and some other times I liked helping out friends with advices on their own life. I even started teaching my parents (don't tell me you didn't have to instruct them on how to turn on the computer more than once) and, I got to be honest, strangers too.

I thought that the satisfaction of watching some of my 'students' succeed was rewarding enough and then I started to speculate on why I couldn't give such good advices for myself too. The answer, I did not succeed to find it yet, lies in the fact that maybe I'm not just as good teacher material as I thought I was or perhaps that I just like a bit of failure once in a while; but the truth is that I never stopped trying to teach anything [and I mean anything I know and don’t know] to whomever I ran into.

A couple of rainy days ago, after missing some trains, some phone calls and particularly missing an umbrella inside of my purse, I was coming back from work (to what I would later call a shopping assault) when this scene reminded me once again why I didn't master my abilities to educate others.

As some of you may know, the streets of Amsterdam’s centre are ruled by mad bikers and trams. You could either get stroked by a crazy tram driver or, if you are less lucky, be ran over by a skilled someone reading the news paper, while talking on the phone while holding an umbrella all while riding a bicycle (in that order).

So, since my luck level had already turned the red light on, I decided to take a ride inside of the tram to avoid getting killed that day. Little I knew about the new student I was going to meet.

“Sir, I’d like to go to the Dam, please”

“Sit down then; first stop it is” - he grumped

“He must be going thru a wet hair day too” – I thought.

I sat down very close to the door so that I didn’t have to disturb the bunch of people when coming out on the first stop. Three minutes had passed when I started listening to the thousands of sentences the conductor yells thru the microphone to explain that the next stop is simply Dam. I stand up very close to the door and start preparing for a cold shower outside when I dare (oh why, oh why?) to ask the guy if he could possibly let me out of it.

“You have to exit thru the back door” he says

“Sir but there is no one standing outside and it’s pouring”

“I’m sorry; this door is just to get in”

My mother always taught me to be polite, no matter the situation and that is what I thought I had to do. No mattered what.

With the shame of having to walk to the back door before everybody’s eyes (including mine) and already feeling the cold spell of rain from outside I was wishing that the karma police could get him when it just hit me: It was time to give a 360 turn to the day.

Soaking from head to toe, I realized that the street light was giving a red for him and I decided it was time for another lesson. I walked to the front and knocked on the door; the conductor starts shaking his hands and showing me the back door, then I reply with the same gestures showing the front one and my desire to get in.

Annoyed by my persistence, he made the ‘great effort’ of pushing the little red button and opened the front door. By this time, a couple of smiling Dutch were standing by the window to get the first row on what was about to happen.

“So, are you getting in or not?” – yelled the conductor at me.

“Oh no sir, I just forgot something”

“This isn’t lost and found miss”

“Don’t worry sir, I just forgot to say ‘Thank you’”

If it wasn’t for the street light turning green again I don’t know if I would be telling this story, since I think I even heard the gnarling of his teeth. I couldn’t help but smiling while waving goodbye. I think I forgot my hate towards the rain by that time, it just made me feel like Macaulay Culkin in ‘Home Alone’. I’m pretty sure my mom would be proud of me.

The satisfaction of giving another lesson lighted up my rainy day but then the failure on teaching my credit card to remain inside of my purse was another reason to keep the wondering away.

Enjoy the Autumn,


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