6 characters I see every day on the Tallinn trolley
Being an environmentally-conscious citizen (read: too poor to afford a car), I take public transportation to work every day at 8:30 in the morning. And every day, I share a trolley car with the same six characters – not necessarily the same people, but the same walking stereotypes that put my 45-minute journey somewhere between “six-hour layover in Riga airport” and “fully invasive root canal” on the tolerability scale. These are the names I have given them.
Decked out in a Baltman suit that looks like it was stolen from a used car salesman’s closet, The Yuppie-in-Training is a 20-22-year-old college kid who usually hops on the trolley at Vabaduse Väljak and gets off near TTÜ. To distract himself from the lesser elements of society surrounding him, he reads the news on his iPhone – or, more frequently, his Nokia iPhone equivalent. Ask him about the state of the NASDAQ OMX Tallinn or a recent merger and between Finnish and Norwegian scrap metal companies, and he’ll blather on effortlessly. Ask him about his plans for the weekend, and his response comes less quickly.
Never in my life have I seen more young college guys wearing suits than on the Tallinn trolley. Since they always get off at the TTÜ stop, I have to wonder when computer science became a discipline with a dress code other than grease-stained t-shirt and jean shorts.
Old Lady Winter
Old Lady Winter never leaves home without wrapping herself in a thick layer of fabric that most Eskimos would consider overkill. She is in her 60s and generally gets on the trolley somewhere in Kristiine and gets off in Mustamäe — leading me to believe that she lives in a reasonably nice house now but gets an itch every once in a while to stroll through housing blocks for the sake of nostalgia.
Old Lady Winter’s jacket comprises the skins of no less than 5,000 minks (or, more realistically, skunks). And judging by the age of her jacket, fur coats were in much greater supply in the USSR than bread.
Old Lady Winter also wears a fur hat, thick leather gloves, and carries a purse that doubles for a sleeping bag. Because her winter gear takes up so much room, she asks that you respect her personal space and not try to crawl over her to get to the free seat next to the window.
The Sprinter is in a hurry! She has to get to the trolley stop – and you’re in her way! Move, idiot! Don’t you realize that the trolley is coming in less than 10 minutes?!
The Sprinter is usually a woman in her mid-to-late forties who thinks that the world will literally stop rotating if she misses this next trolley. Calling the pace of her movement a “sprint” is not completely accurate – it’s more of a bizarre up-and-down bunny-hop that increases her speed by about one meter per hour but expends 8000% more energy than walking. Once she gets to the trolley stop, she waits impatiently, craning her neck constantly to see if the trolley is coming. And when it finally does arrive, she springs into action, pushing everyone out of the way so that she can get on first to get a seat. Which is ironic, given that she doesn’t sit for long: after riding the trolley for one stop, she gets up, pushing everyone out of the way again so she can make her
way to the door. After all, her stop is coming up – after these next seven.
The Sprinter probably suffers from some sort of anti-social behavioral disorder, bites her nails compulsively, and is most likely headed to the movies (alone) for a 22:00 showing.
Mr. Vodka gets on the trolley somewhere near Siili and gets off near Mannipark. And guess what he smells like.
To be fair, apart from his stench, Mr. Vodka doesn’t really bother anyone. But his stench is strong – I can always tell when Mr. Vodka is waiting at the next stop because the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I get the taste of coke zero in my mouth. I like to play a game called “Millal hais jõuab?” whenever Mr. Vodka graces the trolley with his presence: I count down from five as soon as the doors close behind him and judge by his facial expression how long it’ll take for his aroma to hit me in the face like a brick. If he looks somewhat composed, it’s usually a good three to four seconds; but if his eyes are so red he can be confused for a demon and his mouth is still contorted into a chugging funnel, it happens much faster. My favorite part of Mr. Vodka’s entrance is watching the gag-wave spread throughout the trolley — starting from the door, people cover their noses and strain to not vomit as the stink of a night spent drinking bathtub moonshine overwhelms their senses.
Reeking of vodka at 9 in the morning, I don’t think Mr. Vodka has a job. Which begs the question: where does he get the money to buy all that vodka?
The DJ loves Drum ‘N Bass music. I know this because he plays it through his headphones at 2000 Db; loud enough that if the trolley had been manufactured by BMW in the 80’s and was headed to a burger stand, Rulnoks might finally be tempted to ride public transport.
The DJ is a guy in his mid-20s who hops on the trolley at Kaubamaja and gets off at Kristiine Keskus. Maybe there’s a sale on for Sennheiser headphones – after all, The DJ’s look more than six months old. To the untrained ear, the DJ listens to the same song on repeat for the length of his trolley ride – but in reality, The DJ has just listened to 12 songs spanning six musical genres: D&B, Acid D&B, Jungle, Experimental Jungle, Dungle (a fusion between Jungle and D&B), and Pungle (a fusion between Polka and Dungle). Some people get these genres confused, however, and mistake them all for one type of music: “Shitty”.
The Bieber Brigade
20 years ago, if you asked a random person on the street to describe public transportation in “the future”, they’d probably talk about flying busses, teleportation chambers, or hoverboard rental services. Unfortunately, “the future” is a herd of 12 to 14-year-old girls occupying the entire rear of a trolley, simultaneously screeching about boys, Tweeting relentlessly from their smartphones, and chugging energy drinks by the purse-load. And the future is now.
The Bieber Brigade is a flock of õpilased that gets on the trolley from Ehitajate Tee and rides it until – who knows. I can usually only tolerate three or four stops of machine-gun-fire gossip chatter and cell-phone photo sessions until I have to get off and wait for the next trolley.
If modern gadgetry has turned young kids into technophiles, it has turned me into the equivalent of a cranky old man complaining about the neighbors walking across his lawn. Why can’t The Bieber Brigade listen to the latest Lil’ Wayne hit using headphones? And what in God’s name could possibly be worth taking a photo of on the trolley? And are manners completely dead? If you’re Facebook chatting from your phone, the least you can do is hide the screen when you write “Sellel vanal kriipikütil, kes minu taga seisab, on kõvaks läinud!”