Some people can fall asleep on the streetcar. Personally, I find the ride a little too jostling and jolting to settle into anything near sleep, but there are many times I close my eyes just to listen. I take the St Charles streetcar to work every morning and love to admire the houses and restaurants on the way, but lately it has been nice to contextualize the ride in other ways. The conductor shoves the gear all the way to the left and then pulls it halfway back to the right as we come to a stop. Every time the gear shifts it sounds like the locks in those spy movies spinning until everything clicks. The wheels screech to a halt. The engine whirs. Until it stops. We’ve been waiting too long for a light to change or a pedestrian to pass. The heat and humidity begin to seep back in through the open windows. The conductor pushes their weight into the gear again to get the train back up to speed. A zooming 15 miles per hour I’m estimating. The tree branches knock against the window frames. The slight breeze moves the hot air through the streetcar.
The first day we arrived in New Orleans, we were told the streetcar comes every four, nine, or twelve minutes. Sometimes it takes twenty. Sometimes a streetcar arrives to the stop full of tourists and employees off work and the conductor tells us to wait for the next one. The St Charles streetcar in New Orleans is a historic landmark which convinced city government to preserve the line after Katrina. The line has been running since 1835 so it’s great to see that the line will be preserved far into the future, but it probably won’t be getting any faster any time soon. For our purposes it has worked well, we make sure to give a lot of flex time when we’re trying to make appointments. It gives time for conversation and meditation. It gives me time to think about the days past and apply that to the day ahead. In a rush I might find something else, but for now I’ll stay on.