You could say that I have a fear of public transportation. Or perhaps it’s simply a fear of the unknown. We’re fortunate to be within a ten minute walk to the metro, and once I figured out how that worked, I saw no reason to take buses or trams. (There is actually a bus stop about 20 feet from the door of our apartment building.) If something wasn’t close to the metro line, I probably wouldn’t go there on my own.
But alas, my curiosity of Helsinki has grown beyond the (current) reach of the metro. Also, I have to take a tram to get to the uimahalli, and you all know how much I love swimming. So I put on my big girl pants and decided to deal with it.
This particular adventure took place on my way to go swimming (obviously) with Little Man. After about the third time I made this journey, I was able to get to the correct tram stop, once exiting the metro, on the first try. #smallvictories Keeping in mind that I travel with a stroller, I have to navigate toward all the elevators, and use the specified doors when utilizing buses and trams. I can now successfully pick out which doors these are; usually before the tram comes to a full stop.
As I picked out which door to move toward, I realized with dismay that this particular tram, despite having the “wheelchair accessible” entrance, was equipped with stairs. At every door. How on Earth…?? I had just about made up my mind to wait for the next tram when another passenger stepped down, said something in Finnish, then proceeded to help me lift the stroller on board, directly into the oh-so-convenient wheelchair/stroller space. Success!! I spent the duration of the ride (about ten minutes, or six stops) contemplating how I could navigate my way OFF the tram, without endangering myself or Little Man. Turns out, it was surprisingly easy.
After a successful 30 minutes of swim time, my now-exhausted cohort and I made our way across the street to await our ride back to the metro. I was full of hope that I wouldn’t be so unlucky as to encounter TWO stair-only trams in one day. How silly of me. Of course the first one to come by only had stairs. As Little Man and I were then the only people waiting, and he is still unable to lift the front of the stroller, let alone walk, I stayed put. Luckily, I could pretend that I was waiting for a different number as I fed my baby bird a snack. (Swimming does make a person hungry.)
About ten minutes later, the next tram pulled up and I spied the stroller door. Or apparently thought I did. Somehow, I entered one door too far back and, as this was not my first tram mishap (not by a longshot, dear reader), I backed out, intending to hop in the correct door and carry on as if nothing had happened. You know what they say about the best laid plans, and this was really more of an idea. Unfortunately, the driver did not get the memo and took off while I was still standing on the sidewalk. Oh, the frustration! Good thing I had nothing but time. And snacks for the little one.
In preparation for another disappointment, I began looking up which bus I could take to get me somewhere close to where I needed to go. Desperate times and all that. At least I knew which direction to head in, which is more than half the battle in my case. By this time, a few other people had gathered at the tram stop. Luckily for me, one of those people was a nice older gentleman who graciously helped lift my stroller up (oh yes) the freaking stairs.
It was at this point that I wondered if these particular trams run more frequently at a certain time of day; perhaps catering more to commuters than families. After that brief contemplation, I realized just how lucky I was to live in a city where strangers don’t think twice about offering assistance to someone who clearly needs it. There was no way I’d be able to maneuver that stroller up those stairs by myself, and I have yet to learn the words to ask for help. Those two men (and since then another lady) kindly helped me for nothing other than a smile and “kiitos”. What could have been a very trying day (I’m learning more and more to let go of the frustration and see these moments as learning experiences), was turned into a wonderful day, thanks to these people I may never see again.
Never underestimate the power of kindness.