Chasing Roads

by hexacoto

otakarova

Once upon a time, in Prague, a tram and a car stopped at the corner of a street called Otakarova. The traffic light was red and both vehicles were waiting for the light to turn green.

“You know, you have it really good,” says the tram, let’s call him Twenty-four, to the blue Skoda car who was waiting alongside him.

“What do you mean?” says the blue Skoda, whose name is Rush, because that’s what his owner named him. “Why do you say I have it really good?” asked Rush to Twenty-four, as his engine rumbled silently and he went put-put-put.

“You have so much freedom on the road. Look at you, after this traffic light turns green, you’re allowed to turn left, right or go straight ahead or anywhere you want to go!” says Twenty-four. “As for me, I go wherever the tracks are laid for me.”

Rush considered what Twenty-four said, and looked at the roads around him, and then he said, “But looking at the roads, you have options too! The tracks bend left, curve right, lead straight ahead.“

“I have choices?” Twenty-four scoffed. “While the tracks bend left, curve right and lead straight ahead, I cannot take any that I wish to. Do you see that small, red blinking light above the traffic lights?”

Rush swivelled its headlamps upwards, and saw that above the traffic lights was a smaller single light that had a red arrow, blinking steadily. It pointed straight ahead.

“Yes I see it. It points ahead,” says Rush.

“There you have it,” says Twenty-four, “that’s the path I will be going, no other ways about it. Many roads have been laid for me, and I don’t even get a say in which ones to take? All I can do is run on schedule and go where I’m supposed to.” At that, Twenty-four rang its bell, alarming a pedestrian who was attempting to run across the road in front of Twenty-four.

“But it’s not so bad, is it?” put-putted Rush, “You’re a great big tram! On the roads, you’re the king – everyone has to give way to you, maybe with the exception of ambulances and police cars. You have the right of way and if you crossed paths with me, I’m expected to maybe even go up on the pavements just to make way for you if the road is too narrow for both of us.”

Rush continued, “Also, look at the good you do for everyone! Hundreds of people, with your help, make it to work, to school, to wherever they need to go.”

“Hundreds of ungrateful people who litter and vandalise within me,” Twenty-four shot back.

“Hundreds more people who’re glad you bring shelter from the rain in the spring, and warmth from the biting cold of winter,” says Rush.

“Trekking dirt in from the rain, vagrants who sleep without meaning to go anywhere, just to be warm,” says Twenty-four. “I wish I could be like you, going anywhere I want to.”

“And I wish I could be like you, and not have to worry about changing lanes, giving way, looking out for pedestrians, etc,” said Rush.

Just then, the traffic light turned green.

“Well it was nice to meet you,” said Rush. “I’m going left now.”

“And I’m going straight ahead, as if I ever had a choice,” rang Twenty-four its bell angrily as it started to roll ahead.

And so they parted ways, with Rush put-putting off to left and Twenty-four moving straight ahead.

 

A couple of hours later, as Rush was returning back to that junction at Otakarova, and took the route that Twenty-four had taken earlier, he saw a tram lying on its side. There were many people around, some sitting on the sidewalk, some crying, others holding up a bandaged arm. As Rush drove past, snippets of conversation could be heard: “It was as if the tram was trying to go off its tracks or something. How scary!”

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