It was early morning, very early morning. An elderly lady and I clambered into the tram which then pulled away. She sat down in front of me. A few other passengers were inside. Some had gone through the rise and shine routine, but most of us were anything but wide awake.
A few slept, some snoozed, I stared out of the window without taking much in. A world of empty streets lined with parked cars passed by. Now and again, the tram stopped to gather up one or two passengers. Wet snow started to fall and melt away, then the sun came out.
Contrary to the back, things were pretty lively up front. The tram driver chirped loudly to three security heavies. There had been problems on this line. After disruptive weekdays, drivers had asked for assistance. The heavies had joined this first of the morning rides.
The female driver was busy explaining. “The stretch is coming up,” she told the bouncers. “He appears after the square and before the traffic lights. Pops out of one of the side-streets, or from behind a car.”
She stopped and then continued more loudly: “Seems to put things between or on the rails. Don’t know what. Can’t see. He walks in front. We’ve had to slow down, what with him in front and all the traffic. Any of us breaks and stops, he runs off and vanishes. ”
One of the heavies asked questions. The answers came louder and louder: “No, he appears out of nowhere. Runs into any side-street. It’s always during the early hours. It’s always the same stretch, but not each time we pass. It’s unnerving!”
Another pause, then: “No, I don’t get out! He’s weird. Might have a knife! He doesn’t mind the traffic either. Car nearly bumped into him last week. Colleague got out and checked the rails, but couldn’t find anything.”
Four pair of eyes looked solemnly ahead, like Ahab expecting Moby Dick to surface. Tension rippled through the tram. Everybody was awake now, straightening in their seats. There might be some free entertainment ahead.
Eyes wide open, our heads swiveled on rubber necks: left, front, right, front left – back again. It resembled a weird fitness exercise. We didn’t want to miss a thing!
Unperturbed, the tram trundled along towards the charming 19th century triangular place with fountain and naked chestnut trees, encircled by very des-res houses. The tram had slowed down to a speed well below a leisurely walk. The troublesome straight stretch followed after the triangle.
By now, we all eagerly looked out of the large windows offering an unhampered view. Suddenly, a man spurted out of a side street.
“Geeee!” the driver and three heavies screamed. Like one man, the three bouncers lifted their sunglasses to have a really, really good look. All passengers moved to the right side, pressing their noses against the glass so as not to miss a thing.
“Not him!” the driver shouted to all of us. The bouncers started to laugh. The tram slowly pulled us past what was white, but not exactly Moby Dick.
The man stopped at a parked car right next to the track. He opened its boot. Oblivious to all stares, he started rummaging in it. He was totally naked, bar a very colourful Bermuda. He was not even sporting flip-flops!
Flabbergasted, the prim old lady in front of me kept staring. Flabbergasted, I stared as well. Everybody stared at Bermuda, as the tram pulled us slowly past the scene at less than a meter distance. Suddenly, Bermuda became aware of a tram pulling past in slow motion. He stared as his mouth fell open.
As he disappeared from sight, everybody started laughing. What on earth possessed this big white Moby Dick to run to his car on bare feet wearing only an extremely bright Bermuda? Sure, the sun was shining, but this was not Hawaii! It must still be around zero C outside!
“Locked himself out?” the old lady speculated aloud. “Thrown out by his lover?” I wondered. “Was it is his car?” someone mused.
While we came up with wilder and wilder solutions to the Bermuda-problem, the driver and heavies had grown solemn again. The tram had pulled round a corner. It was travelling towards a distant set of traffic lights.
“There he is! There he is! It’s him! It’s him!” The driver bounced up and down excitedly, pointing ahead. She stopped the tram and opened a door. The bouncers tried to clamber out all together; then changed tactics and erupted from the tram one after the other.
Two ran down a side street and disappeared from sight. The one in charge inspected the stretch of rails, right up to the set of distant traffic lights and back again. Ten minutes later, the runners returned empty-handed. Their boss had found two one-Euro-coins.
While we passengers settled back into our routine of snoozing or daydreaming, the driver had a “told you so” conversation with the bouncers. They concluded the Nutter might be trying to bend coins by placing them on the rails. Who he was and why he did this would remain a mystery only to be solved when he could be caught. This was not going to happen on this ride.
The heavies decided to continue hitching early rides. It was not just the coin-bender, but the Bermuda as well. As the boss told the driver: “Never knew these early rides through posh neighbourhoods got this exciting, Annie!”