I have been riding public transportation in Vienna for nigh on 30 years. I know pretty much most of the tram, bus, underground and train networks off by heart. Or at least I thought I did. Two years of reduced travel, or probably not having to be anywhere particularly urgently have clearly had an effect though.
This morning, I needed to get into the centre of town for an early(ish) appointment by Schottentor. I’d factored in enough time to allow for say watching a 38 tram disappear from in front of me and an 8 minute wait for the next one, and I have long since conceded defeat and acknowledged that I am no longer fit enough to sprint to catch a bus or tram. I know my limits. It is a simple walk down from the Cottageviertel down to Billrothstrasse and the 38 tram stop. So off I toddled, bag in hand, ready to do business. And the tram came as expected (this is Vienna, erstwhile no. 1 city in the world, where even in times of high inflation and increasing costs of living, the transport still pretty much runs like it ought to). And I was confident that I would make my appointment in good time.
As the tram duly reached Nussdorferstrasse, the tannoy tinnily announced that the tram was terminating there. Still, that wouldn’t be a problem, the next 37 and 38 usually comes within three or four minutes. Alighting would allow me a short mask break, which is always welcome, with the City of Vienna still deliberating about whether to drop the requirement to wear a mask. But it wasn’t to be a momentary chance to catch my breath today. After seven minutes of normal breathing, a 37 tram trundled along. Again the tram terminated there, before peeling off to the right to head its depot at nearby Marsanogasse. Bother, it could become a bit tight for making my appointment, although I thought I would just about make it in time. But then I noticed that the tram tracks were blocked just inside the Gürtel. The Anzeigetafel flagged up that trams were not running due to the emergency services being in attendance. Double bother.
For all my self-professed Navigationstalent, I was completely thrown by this course of events. Usually I would have plucked an alternative route out of my memory in a flash. Not today. It seemed like the loading bar for my navigation system was stuck fast on about 75%. I knew which way I needed to get, but was utterly confounded by how to get there. Surely this wasn’t happening to me. The clock was ticking, and I didn’t want to be late for my appointment. I was just about to set off across the Gürtel to try to flag down a passing cab, when the U6 rumbled over head heading Northbound.
Up the steps I marched to the southbound platform, I was in luck, the next U6 to Siebenhirten only a minute away, and I got on and then alighted at the next station. I exited the station, along with a steady current of others clearly also treading the same path. Along came one of the (not so) “new” low floor trams, and in I got. Down Währingerstrasse it thundered and through to the Jonas Reindl. Time check as I alighted, still six minutes to go. Yes, I’d be on time. Up out of the station inside the Ringstrasse, no need to take the steps two at a time, even less need to work up a sweat my shirt and tie. Up at street level again and off came the mask again, and I strode with purpose to my destination. A deft buzz the buzzer, and the door snib clicked open, and then straight into the waiting lift, and out, and the door opened. “Nehmen Sie bitte Platz *Hair Care*!” the receptionist addressed me, smiling. Some things don’t change – at least not the pronunciation of my surname.
I’d made it, not out of breath, on time, possibly early, but still trying to work out why my brain needed the rumble of the U6 to reboot back at Nussdorferstrasse. Such a schoolboy error to make not knowing such a simple diversion. Harrumph. Must be a sign of having spent the last two years of not having many time-critical appointments, or many that were doable at a leisurely strolling pace. At least though I hadn’t been ambushed by an e-scooter with the turning circle and force of the Amoco Cadiz or flattened by a marrauding cyclist furiously dinging their bell rather than decelerating.