Loose Change: Tram Hero

He’s out there, somewhere. Righting wrongs and protecting the weak. Roaming the streets of Krakow on the side of the humble tram rider, the nightmare of the gas guzzler.

I’ve never had a hero before, being inclined to almost toxic levels of cynicism, but I found one last week.

It was a Friday evening, and I was heading to Kazimierz on the number 19 tram. I’d noticed him of course. It’s not often you see a 60-something-year-old guy dressed in full Polish mountain man regalia, including feather in leather hat.

Decades of living in cities have taught me exactly what to do about crazy people on public transport. Rule one: Don’t look directly at them, but don’t let them out of your sight either.

We pulled up at Wawel. The doors opened and fellow passengers hopped down among the line of cars idling across the tram stop, waiting on the lights. Feather hat guy rose from his seat.

Apparently calmly – I thought he was getting off – he crossed to the open door, and brought his righteous fist down repeatedly and thunderously on the roof of the small white hatchback blocking the exit.

“This is a tram stop!” he roared – tanned, leathery paw of iron visibly denting the bodywork – “Where did you buy your driving licence!?”

I think they were on the way to a wedding. All four occupants of the car started violently in their seats, and the bouquet on the lap of the beautiful brunette in the back leapt a few centimetres. How would it be to wield such power?


Hunting? We ain’t huntin’ him, he’s huntin’ us!

Of course, they pretended not to be bothered. The initial shock of a white-bearded lunatic pounding on the roof of their SEAT Leon assimilated, they affected blithe unconcern. But they will never forget that moment of shame.

Leather hat regained his seat.

Rule Two: Don’t react to the craziness. I was compelled to gaze in admiration at this warrior of the tramways, but I’ve had London Underground training. I automatically assumed the demeanour of a man entirely comfortable about sharing a carriage with blatant symptoms of mental illness.

I was alarmed, but slightly thrilled, to find myself alighting behind my new hero. Stradom – the gateway to Kazimierz.

It’s a nightmare of a junction with cars and trams rudely interjecting themselves from all directions. I had to see what Leather Hat would do in this environment, so I slowed my pace and followed.

Ul. Dietla was as a roaring mountain river to this man. To be respected, but not feared.

Not an anarchist, our hero seemed content to wait for the lights to change. Less content to overlook the minibus that rolled to a halt directly athwart the pedestrian crossing when the green man showed.

And lo, mighty was His hammering on the flank of the powder blue Mercedes Sprinter. And booming were His denigrations of the sexual orientation of minibus drivers.

I lost track of Leather Hat when he strode across the northbound lanes of Dietla, his patience for traffic laws exhausted.

I may never see him again, but I’ve sketched out the screenplay in my head. The most brilliant tram driver of his generation, the lost love of the tram depot manager’s daughter drove him into the mountain wilderness. Thirty years later – he’s back, and he’s mad (also, mad).

5 thoughts on “Loose Change: Tram Hero

  • July 10, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    This is a very one sided view.

    Why do you call this person mad? Because he doesn’t conform to your British character? Or he wears a traditional wear and so you treat him as some backward “folk”?

    Blocking of a door of a tram by a car is a violation of traffic rules and indeed it is very annoying.
    I have seen some elderly passengers who were not only obstructed but shouted at by car drivers that their car may get scratched!
    When they were told that they are blocking the exit, they swore and said that there are more doors to use in the tram …..

    Banging on their roof sounds like a great idea – I will use it next time when an idiot driver stops like this.

    And aggressive minibus drivers who force themselves o pedestrian crossings are a dangerous occurrence – banging them is probably quite often the only way to get them to stop ….

    You just sound like a driver who happened to use a tram and witness the other side … giving some very biased views.

    Get a life.

  • July 10, 2014 at 6:56 pm


    That was funny and entertaining.

    Can’t wait to get back to Krakow!



    • July 11, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      @A.G. Sadowski: I fully agree. I have been reading Jamie’s articles on this site and Polandian for 5 years. He is an excellent writer with an original voice of his own and an amazing talent of observation. Unfortunately, his excellent sense of (English) humor is usually not understood by Polish readers, Mr Wlodek above being a good example. Unfortunately, such individuals often respond by personally insulting the writer. So sad..

  • July 11, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Leather hat? Or wool, felt, hat? Big difference my man.

  • September 3, 2014 at 11:32 am

    He is a goral, or maybe was, or maybe still is. That is, a highlander. It’s great to see your point of view because had I been in that scene I wouldn’t have blinked an eye. Or eyebrow. He seemed indignant but being indignant and feeling indignant and acting indignant is part of being polish.


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