The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

November 10, 2006


I'm pretty sure they changed the timetable for tram line 5 here in Vienna, because as far as I remember, the last tram used to leave from Wallensteinplatz considerably later than 00:09 hrs.

Anyway, when I came to the tram stop at 00:10 hrs, all I could see were the last tram's taillights in a distance of about 150 metres or so, and the train indicator at the station happily announcing "Betriebsschluss" (no service).

I didn't feel like paying €12 for a taxi, so I decided to take a swift walk to the nearest subway station, which in this case is above ground, a fact which allowed me to see the last train enter and leave the station when I was still about 150 metres away from it.

I kept walking for about ten minutes until I was approaching my next option, tram number 38. When I was about 150 metres away from the station, the last tram on that line passed through it.

Five minutes later, just as I approached the stop of tram number 41, the same thing happened again. Not that it would have helped me to catch that train, because by then it was so late that I would have missed the connecting service anyway, but I was beginning to get the hang of seeing a cascade of last trams pass at a distance of about 150 metres, like a reminder of the transport authority that if you miss the last tram number 5, your punishment will not just consist of having to walk, you will also be humiliated and frustrated at each subsequent alternative route.

Some ten or fifteen minutes later, I was still on my way and it was well past 00:45 hrs by now, I walked along the route of bus line 13A, a fairly useful line which would have saved me about 15 minutes' walk if it were still in service. However, I was perfectly sure that the last bus must have left some time ago, so I didn't bother to check the timetable at one of the stations that I walked past.

Just when I was right in the middle between that station and the next (actually about 150 metres away from the next), I heard the sound of a bus approaching behind me. I uttered an expletive and started to run.

Posted by Horst on November 10, 2006 10:52 PM to my so-called life | Tell-a-friend
Josh Cogliati said on November 13, 2006 02:27 PM:

Did you catch the last bus?

laura g brown said on November 14, 2006 04:50 AM:

I want to know, too. Entertaining bon mot of an article. Made me laugh (is that bad?)

Jann said on November 14, 2006 05:34 AM:

I too am wondering about this. Let's see, 150 metres, that's more than a length and a half of an (American) football field. If the bus had to stop for a traffic light, (it would have had to be a long one), then possibly.

dieter said on November 14, 2006 09:16 AM:

I was going to ask about it too. But then I didn't, because this piece of information would have destroyed the whole point of the story. Chances are, however that he did catch that bus. Why else would Horst have cut off at that moment?

Jann said on November 14, 2006 10:26 AM:

@dieter: to follow your logic, i.e., that "this piece of information would have destroyed the whole point of the story", it would make sense to stop the story at that point no matter which outcome.

Horst said on November 14, 2006 10:39 AM:

As it happens, I think that every good story needs to end at the right moment. My problem with many films is that they end much too late; they have some sort of conclusion tagged onto them, and in many cases that conclusion is not really necessary and spoils more than it helps -- the point is often not really how the story ends, but rather what the characters went through and what perspectives he/she now has to continue.

In literature class, I often find stories with open endings more rewarding for discussion, because they seem to force the reader to think more intensely about them. Not being presented with a ending, the reader will invariably go back to the story and look for clues as to how it could end, what possibilities there are -- students tend to be much better prepared for this kind of story as they read it at least twice and did think more intensely about it.

What would my story have gained if I had told you whether I had caught the bus? The story is about Vienna Transport's bizarre timetable and the frustration caused by it, about walking home late at night and being confronted with the fact that I was missing the last means of public transport not just once, but several times, and it ends with the slight possibility that this time I might catch it (or not).

Revealing anything would make the story much weaker. If you knew that I had caught the bus, the whole point with the frustration caused by a bizarre sequence of missed trams would immediately dissolve into the happy feeling that I was "saved" after all, whereas if I had told you that I had not caught the bus, it would change to complete defeatism, which is also not what I wanted. In both cases my point would have been lost.

Believe me, you don't want to know whether I caught that bus or not.

nora said on November 14, 2006 02:35 PM:

french ending: the bus runs you (or whoever the protagonist may be) over
austrian 1950ies ending: you catch the bus, and the only other passenger on it will turn out to be the love of your life
tarantino ending: you catch the bus and end up mugged and beaten to pulp
m.night shamalan ending: you catch the bus, the doors all short circuit and you can't get out at your stop or ever again
richard attenborough ending: you chase the bus only to realize that you are actually right in front the entrance to your den (or house or other abode)

dieter said on November 15, 2006 10:34 AM:

Horst, I completely agree with you. That is also why I didn't bother to ask in the first place. We don't need to know, the open ending is absolutely best for the story. And Jann, of course you are right, but it is fun to speculate. That is also why I love Nora's variations.

The more bizarre information: This morning, I had to go somewhere far off my daily routine. So, I went to a bus stop, thinking about Horst's story, only to realize that this had extremely bad effects on my Karma. I was about 150 meters from the bus stop when my bus passed...

Josh Cogliati said on November 24, 2006 09:31 PM:

One more ending:
Horst fails to catch the bus he saw, gets to the bus stop and reads that there will be one more bus, so he waits for it and catches it.

Jann said on November 24, 2006 10:05 PM:

...only to arrive home later than he would have had he continued walking.

Jann said on November 25, 2006 06:14 AM:

I almost forgot: about a week ago I fell asleep watching TV and dreamed I was back in Buffalo NY running down the middle of a side street through about six inches of dirty unplowed snow toward Delaware Ave trying to catch a bus that was headed south on that route. The time was 23:30 hours, I was on the east side of Delaware hoping for a break in traffic so I could run across, I had about thirty metres to go, I saw the bus stop at the corner but couldn't tell if the traffic light was red... That's when I woke up. Perfect timing!

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