Whenever I visited dear Timo in Philly during our college years I loved taking the trolley. Timo would always groan and moan about it, saying something about taking it his whole life and an hour both ways in high school and blah blah blah. I tuned it out because riding the trolley was THE West Philly thing to do and I felt incredibly city-fied doing it.
Fast forward 4 years. I hate the trolley, and I mean hate it! I suppose after a year of riding on NYC’s excellent transportation system, I am more than a bit spoiled.
I abhor trudging out to the corner of 48th and Baltimore at 5:45 am on a Saturday to catch the trolley that only comes every twenty minutes to work.
The worst is getting back home. It seems like every time I try to make my way back to West Philly the good ‘ole 34 trolley takes its sweet ‘ole time coming down the pike.
The 10, 13, and 36 go by. Followed by the 11. And then the 10 again. Still no 34. It’s cold down in the station and inevitably someone lights a blunt or a cigarette beside me and blows the smoke in my face. Oh the warmth.
Finally the 34 lumbers down the track, overcrowded as usual since everyone and their brother were waiting for it for the last thirty minutes. Surprisingly, there’s an empty seat. What luck, a seat on a crowded trolley! Only after I place my butt on the plastic do I realize why it’s empty: unidentified stickiness. Too late now. I’m already down and I’m not getting up until 48th.
Another reason I hate the trolley: it never fails that while winding through the corridors of the 15th Street station to get to the trolley stop I will get hit by the unbearable smell of piss. One moment I’m hauling ass up the steps and around the corner, the next I’m blindsided by the smell of urine. My eyes water and my arms flounder wildly in the piss cloud quickly encircling my body. Lurching forward I round the next bend and breathe the stale, musty air of the trolley stop. Relief!
Another downside: the trolley is on tracks. Obvious I know. This means that when the trolley is cruising above ground it cannot dodge things that cars can: vehicles parked in the middle of the street with their four-ways on (a Philly staple), slow traffic, or construction. During these instances the driver either honks their horn persistently or, in the case of construction, we all tumble out of the trolley and onto a bus for a a couple of blocks.
Yes, the trolley is a thorn in my flesh but it’s a necessary evil. Despite my distaste, I always feel a sense of relief and joy when I see that ‘ole 34 a’rumblin towards me. The doors swing open and the driver’s familiar face welcomes me aboard. “34 to 61st and Baltimore!” And home we go.