The Night Tram People

Il solito... Tram - Tram

Night Tram

It’s 2:35 a.m. on a Wednesday and I am standing at a tram stop near the center. It’s middle of the night busy, meaning the normal people are home in bed and the streets are littered with extras from Requiem for a Dream.

Though I do not have a terribly early morning, I crave nothing more than a ham sandwich and my bed. I look down the road and nothing is coming. I never believe it’s going to happen until it does. And then it does.

From around the corner, at 2:37 a.m. – just like the schedule reads – comes the night tram. I could shed a tear of joy, but it’s more because I know a ham sandwich is in my near future.

One of the best things about Prague is that at any time of day or night some form of public transportation will get you home. It’s everywhere too. You can be in the middle of a remote outskirt of Prague 25 and there’s a ghost bus stop or a tram stop.

As I step on the night tram at 2:37:03, I am overwhelmed with happiness. And then I look around and remember the payoff.

It’s the night tram people.

I find a seat, check it for urine, and then sit. I look around for him and find him soon: the drunkest man in Prague. He’s sitting with his face pressed against the back of the seat in front of him, a long line of drool runs from his lower lip to the phone in his hand. He will get a wake-up call in an hour from an angry tram driver in a dark depot. I do not envy him.

Nearby the drunkest man in Prague are the two vultures. These are people who prey on people like the drunkest man in Prague. They are eyeing up his phone, wondering how much it’ll bring in at the secondhand mobile shop in Anděl. The only things keeping them from swooping down on the drunkest man in Prague are the two police officers standing in the back. The vultures’ frustration is almost odoriferous.

The tram stops and three Americans get on. How do I know they’re American? They are wearing college T-shirts and wearing baseball caps on backwards, pulled down low on their foreheads. They sit in front of me. I press my nose into my book. It doesn’t matter. They start. And their voices eat into me.

“Dude, this place is so awesome!” Subtitle: This is the first time I’ve left New Jersey.

“I know. Totally authentic.” Authentic? Oh well, I have judged you too harshly. You are clearly the next Kerouac.

“It really is. Look at this, you never see this in America.” He points to the street and I look as well. There is a homeless man picking through a trash can. A thing I have seen on Oakland Avenue in Pittsburgh, Broad street in Philadelphia, and visible in any other city in the U.S. I do not mention this to Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise.

Instead, I look around at the rest of the car; the whole cast of characters is here tonight. There is an angry man swooping around, leaning over people and looking for trouble. He calms when he sees the police, sits in a seat and grumbles out the window. A few seats ahead of me a man is bent over a bucket of KFC, shoveling its contents into his throat with nothing close to shame. His mouth smacks and crumbs fall to the ground. Even one of the two homeless men gives him a look, followed by a wince and a shudder – a hell of an endorsement from a guy covered in his own urine.

There are the two loud drunks, they shout a conversation as they pass a bottle of potato rum back and forth. A couple of seats away two girls have a quiet conversation, their body language and whispers advertising: please leave us alone. Two sober people wear looks of misery, probably heading off to work at this ugly hour in some hotel.

While I am beyond happy not to be any of the night tram people tonight, I do not judge any of them. Next time it could be me sleeping or hovering over a KFC carcass. You never know.

My stop approaches. I am a little sad; though each night tram has the same characters, you are always happy being among them when you are not one of them. I turn to wave.

But the night tram people are too busy eating, sleeping, preparing to steal, talking bullshit philosophy, or glaring out the window.

I bid them a quiet farewell and walk home, wondering if I’ll be one of the night tram people next time.


  1. #1 by Ms. Bananafish on June 7, 2014 - 12:47 pm

    Was it a streetcar named Desire? Or Ham Sandwich?

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