Public Transportation of the World of Yesterday-Today!
If you need to get somewhere in The City That Forgot To Stay Clean, you may not want to take public transit. I think this goes without saying, don't you? As all one needs for their proof is to look up at the scary-crazy-confusing railway system high above our heads. Well, that is, on a good pollution day. Because lets face it, if there were a fifty point scale for pollution in Distinct Poplar. Today we be at one hundred and eleven.
Though they say the air up there is much, much clearer, I do not invite you to take the city transportation system for a spin. Why the train of course, perched high above our heads. The pretzel pattern of curves and routes and destinations, that is what I meant. And that whirling, racing, rickety death machine that coasts across them. That elevated track built so high up above us, that passengers sometimes swear that they are riding in the the very clouds. Well to be honest, the passengers do a lot of swearing, and cursing, and praying for their lives—up there. That silly, super dangerous, roller-coaster machine.
Each train follows a maze of tracks to an innumerable number of stations, which seem to grow like weeds between prominent city buildings. Massive curving staircases that start from the ground level, like a giant stalk of rusted metal and rebar. One time they even painted them green, to help spruce up the city that forgot to stay clean… but that didn't last. The stations are like loadstones and the passengers purchase their fare at the turnstiles that seem to never stop spinning. You get your ticket, you pay with your ticket, and you try to time the turnstile so you don’t end up with a big ole bruise on your hip. People who were born to take the city’s public transit, they can time the self automated spinning turnstiles just right. We call them crazy people.
You would have to be crazy, to pay for the opportunity to take your life into your own hands. Following the long line of tardy commuters, who follow one another on these stairways to the sky. You’ve seen them, the processions of would-be passengers climbing stair-castles of dark twisted metal. Three to a line, two to a line, one after another when you get all the way up to the top. Ascending through the noxious layers of haze and smog that sticks to your clothing and makes your hair smell like burnt shoe laces.
Each train follows a maze of tracks to an innumerable number of stations, which seem to grow like weeds between prominent city buildings. Massive curving staircases that start from the ground level, like a giant stalk of rusted metal and rebar.
So high above the rest of us that you can look into the windows of office buildings on the umpteenth floor. Thats what it’s like to stand on the platforms they have up there. Long planks of wood, so slippery with moisture that most folks slip and slide around on their very first trip up there. Oh and I shouldn’t forget to mention the handholds…you know, in case a stiff wind whistles through and threatens to knock everyone down to their hands and knees. As if bowling pins had boring lives of their own and boring old bowling places to go and bowling pin people to talk to. But don’t worry about being blown right off, they have a fence in place to prevent such things, provided the fences are fixed and in perfect working order. Which they are…most of the time anyway.
So here comes the train, a silver, segmented snake that begins coiling itself around the station. At a complete stop there is a screeching whistle that warns platformers to get ready for boarding. Those who are standing precariously too close, are overtaken by a cloud of black smoke, from the overworked gears, that begins enveloping passengers in a dark and torpid haze.
When the train comes to a complete stop, the doors slide open and the train riders spill out, eager to be free of the long, segmented metal machine. “Pars Piece Station. This is Pars Piece, Iestyn Street Station is next. This is Pars-Piece-Pars Piece,-Pars-Piece Station”, says the conductor’s dry and nasally voice as it’s spread across the crackling cloud-speaker like butter is spread thinly over hard bread. Back and forth and with a very dull knife.
But nobody on the platform waits for them freshly arrived passengers to get off first before trying themselves to enter. The arrivals separate and fall in every direction, once those doors come open, like sardines sliding out of their metal tin. The new passengers don’t ever wait their turn, and rush forward with arms raised defensively. The two sides create a pit of pushing and shoving in front of every set of expanding accordion doors.
When that struggle is through, passengers hurry to find a seat, because everyone knows that theres a shortage of quality places to sit while one is flung about so haphazardly, once the train starts moving. So hurriedly to those tope and orange colored plastic ice cream scoop seats. Covered in a thin layer of recycled sofa cushions, for comfort they tell me, but I can’t help but disagree. Plaids and pie crust patterns of bright mustard yellows and dark olive greens that, for all I know, might have come straight out of peoples homes before they ended up here. Who knows if these stains of barbecue sauce, of macaroni and cheese, of beer and chocolate came from recent home owner or disgusting fellow passenger. “No eating on the train, ladies and gentleman, no eating.”, Says the overly dry voice of the conductor, hoarse and strained like a man whose been trapped in the desert for days on end. “No eating, no smoking, no solicitation. No music, no loud video games, no overly enthusiastic gum chewing or bubble blowing and popping. No unnecessary photographs, no pets of any kind, no alcoholic beverages. No threatening or menacing glances, no violation of personal space, no harassment, no seat belts. Iestyn Street Station is next, Iestyn Street, Iestyn Street Station, Iestyn Street is next. This has been Pars Piece.”
Once seated, everyone pulls out their something-to-do and waits for the death race. Nobody talks to one another and nobody looks anyone in the eye. After everyone sits, the rest just pack in around them like an air cushion of sweaty and out of breath, flushed faces. Wheezing in whispers, they reach up to the rubber loops and the metal bars they are hung from, for some false sense of security. Then the books come out, the newspapers, the crossword puzzles, the oversized mobile phones, and miniaturized televisions. Everyone keeps their heads down, their legs crossed, and their arms scrunched close as to not touch anything else, especially not another living person. Oh no, that would be horrible!
The conductor’s voice comes on again over the sound system in each train car. So loud and obnoxiously deafening, that each rider can’t help but squirm under the pressure. Some savvy passengers remember to bring earbuds on the regular. The rest endure the booming overcall as if it were bearing down on top of them. “Doors closing, doors-closing-stay-clear-of-the-doors-doors closing.” The accordion doors depress and hiss as they retract back into place. Last minute arrivals rush forward and fling themselves through at all costs. The train sets into motion and the wheels grind up the tracks like a set of metal teeth set to work on a cob of corn. Long centipede-like legs force the wheels to turn in unison. The machine moves, a snake uncoiling it’s body of train cars. The wheels hum and groan and the air is showered in a popping spray of sparks. The train is released and set into it’s track, like a beast with a purpose of fire and locomotion. The sounds of it all, clicking and squealing, as the death ride begins!
So here comes the train, a silver, segmented snake that begins coiling itself around the station...
From inside, dubious train riders stay focused on their private and personal distractions. They avoid noticing the chaotic ride they have all willingly undertaken. If any one of them were to venture curiosity and look outside one of the many windows…they would see the city beneath them spinning past, as if completely out of control. A blur of near unreconcilable details that are the neighborhoods of the city, and only the regular passenger or the practiced eye would be able to pick them out from the spaghetti patterns of shapes and colors flying past underneath. Middlepost, Nigh Wall, and Almer’s Way all go by in an instant.
Almer’s Way, we wont be stopping there anytime soon. They closed the Almer’s Way station (on Crichton & Leviathan Street) after the “incident” that took place there. They say the whole neighborhood was overcome with an overnight fog and nobody could get in or out. Though I am sure that station will be open again soon, once they’ve figured that whole mess out.
While this journey takes place, buffeting the smog, winding around buildings and screeching out of control. Does nobody ever wonder about the thought process behind it? What lead to this horrible monstrosity with scales of metal and breadth of sparks, and why was it constructed so dangerously high in elevation? Perhaps the pollution is the answer. Perhaps nobody would be able to run the trains properly if they couldn’t see their own hand in front of their face. Its that bad up there! Perhaps, once things got so bad, the city commission of transportation decided there were no other places for it to go. But why couldn’t it go underground? If the smog was so bad, and the streets themselves such a mess. Why high up in the sky? Maybe we will never know.
But one thing is for sure, I’ll have no part of it. I don’t enjoy having my insides feel like they’re being turned into jelly. My skin stretched across my face, and my stomach stuck in a bottomless pit. Thats what the train does to me, so I said no more! But I say good luck to you if you’re braver then me! Then test your fate if you will, and I hope that you survive to tell the tale!