Learning the local dialect

You ride the trams for any amount of time and you start to hear it, the subtle and not-so-subtle messages broadcast by the pilots of the trams. And while I rarely see the drivers, I am starting to recognize different bell styles.

Some drivers will give a little courtesy ‘tang! when a driver they know goes past in the other direction. It is the lightest touch on the bell but it is still distinct. Most drivers will give a pl’tang! as they approach the stern of a passing tram; people often cross right behind a tram and drivers coming the other way don’t want to catch anyone by surprise.

When trams have been stopped, either at a tram stop or at an intersection, many of them will give a kr’tang! as they start moving (the trams roll their bells the same way the czechs roll their r’s).

Then, of course, there is a driver on tram 7, mentioned in a previous episode and identified correctly as Johnny B. Goode by p7K, who carries on an ongoing conversation with the world at large with his bell. I’ll give this to old Johnny: No one will ever say they didn’t hear him coming.

This afternoon as I was tromping up the street, I learned some new words in Bell. Oh, I’ve heard my share of swearing in that language, believe me. Tram 7 Johnny is turning the air blue with his bell as we rumble down the road. Today I watched as a car cut in front of a tram to make a left turn and stopped on the tracks, unable to complete the maneuver. Czechs may be bad drivers, but generally they respect the trams.

The tram stopped abruptly, the car sitting dead across the tracks. Krrrrrang! said the Tram. I understood perfectly. “I would have T-Boned you,” the driver said, “ramming the coupler sticking out of the front of my tram right into your kidneys, but there would have been too much paperwork.”

There was traffic coming the other way, and the car was stuck there, as the tram inched forward. Krrrrrangggggg! KRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAANNNNNGGGGG! The language was getting choice now, not something I can put in a family blog, but more or less it translated to “The paperwork is becoming less and less important.” Finally the car completed its turn and sped off, the way drivers will do after they’ve been stupid, which is all the time here. kr’tang! said the tram and moved along its way.

4 thoughts on “Learning the local dialect

  1. Sounds like Czech tram drivers use bells the way American train engineers used to use whistles.

    There’s a story about an engineer who really liked to play the whistle — he had his own flamboyant style when he blew for whatever reason, grade crossing, approaching a station, or whatever. Problem was, every blast on the whistle meant an expenditure of steam that otherwise would be used to make the train go. The fireman, who shoveled the coal into the firebox to heat the boiler to make that steam, wasn’t pleased. He commented, “It don’t matter if they hear you comin’, if you ain’t comin’.”

    Even today, however, the different engineers on the Cumbres and Toltec have their individual styles. The pitch and harmonics of the whistle tell what engine is coming, and the style of whistles tells who’s driving.

  2. Yes, I know this is off-topic, but you have that countdown over there on the right, and you have the Boys’ Bacchanal 20th Anniversary coming up. We can’t simply let that event pass without some sort of celebration.

    I am hereby making Five O’Clock Somewhere the official North American Headquarters for the Boys’ Bacchanal reunion. Sure, those of you who are in Europe or other continents can make your own celebrations, but for those of us who are still on this side of the pond, we need a celebration.

    I do understand that the majority of the Bacchanal attendees have spouses and/or offspring. So the traditional Bacchanal activities will be modified accordingly. I can help all attendees to find suitable lodging in the Chama Vally (luxe, outdoorsy, cheap, you name it). And Los Pastores agricultural co-op can prepare the lamb ahead of time, so it will be ready for roasting.

  3. I have been considering a sweep through the US this summer, and that would be a natural time to come. I may have to modify my plans for other events, however (see unhatched-egg counting episode).

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