Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Boot Camp Survival Skills

Dan and I were watching some sort of marine corps survival training course on TV the other day (hey, we are at the mercy of Belgacom, what can I say?), when it hit me -- my time in Belgium has been a two-year long boot camp on how to survive on public transportation!

At the risk of pissing in the proverbial wind, I swear I feel that there is nothing that I am not prepared for when it comes to PT. Drive your car into a tram? Got you covered. Have a very large old lady fall into your lap where you have to grope her breasts in order to push her off of you? Can teach that course. Man craps his pants in seat across from you? Passed it with flying colors. Stuck between a glass partition and a "hard spot"? Been there, felt that. Dyslexic cab drivers? Ckech. Crazy lady dropping trou? Roger that. Cabbies that offer post-ride massages? PT101. How to drive a bus driver into a homicidal rage? Magna cum laude, baby!

So, on Tuesday afternoon when the driver of Tram 25 stopped the tram in the middle of the road and got out with a long metal stick, I wasn't the least bit concerned. I figured he was probably just trying to figure out the best way to dislodge the body. No big deal for a PT survivalist like myself. A couple of minutes of poking and prodding, and the driver got back on the tram and we started on our merry way. But I, the hardened, seasoned public transport professional that I am, knew that there was much more to this ordeal. I could tell by the tiny hairs standing up on the back of my neck. (Rookies, lesson one in PT survival training -- learn to listen to those hairs. It could very well save your life one day, or at least become a bloggable event. You heard it here.)

The tram rambled on until it came to the next stop. Although I had never been in this area of Brussels, nor had I ever been on this particular tramline, I knew that the stop was "Buyl" because, like a good survivalist, I am always aware of my surroundings (and escape routes) while using PT. As the driver pulled into the stop, he made the announcement over the loudspeaker. I didn't need French or context clues to know what was going on. While others showed their irritation by rolling their eyes and grumbling, I just laughed. I was in an unfamiliar area, pressed for time. Of course we were being kicked off the tram.

So, as I stood on the side of the tram tracks waiting for god-knows-how-long for the next tram to arrive so I could join the masses in shoving my way onto what was sure to be an already packed tram, I couldn't help but pride myself in just how far I've come in PT survival. There was a time when I would have been the only person that didn't get off the tram, riding it back to wherever it was being sent for repair, with the driver sneaking peaks at me in his rearview mirror, wondering what was going on with the crazy chick?