The drone of the tram’s electric engine is masked by the throb of conversation around me. I stare through my reflection at the walls of the tunnel that we hurl through. I notice that the light above the door beside me is alight meaning that these doors will open when we reach the next station.
I get up from my place and dodge a young lady who scurries to take my place. Without thinking, I pat my pockets – mobile phone, wallet, gloves – to make sure I have not dropped anything and I position myself in front of the doors which clunk open just as we stop.
The people spill on to the platform, almost as if they are poured out of the vehicle and everyone hurries to the stairs and escalator. I wonder why they do this, this mad rush to be the first on the staircase. I’ve often noticed this in Brussels, and have also noticed that once the stairs/escalator are cleared, everyone resumes a normal walking pace.
It is one of those mad things about Brussels that no longer makes me wonder.
I walk up the stairs and turn left into the dank underground station that is being renovated. There is a sense of decay oozing out of the walls that are bare, the shops that are no longer and the decrepit state of the place. I appreciate that there is a plan to make the station look a lot better but if someone had paid attention to what it looks like in the interim, it could make many a commute a little nicer.
I dodge the beggars whining for coins and hold the glass door open for the people who were a few steps behind me. They barely acknowledge my gesture so I ignore them and continue my way. I am now surfacing into one of Brussels’ largest shopping malls and am on my way to browse some electronics. I stub my toe on a baby’s pram which has just been stopped in front of me because the mother thought that her phone has rung. She glares at me as I bite my tongue and limp away.
There are many people roaming around here today, and I hesitate as I get in line for the escalators that will take me up to ground level. I have another two storeys to climb, apart from this one, so I take a deep breadth and plunge into the heaving mass of humanity that is going my way.
At this point, I notice something that I have never seen before. I have been into this mall countless times before. There is a dry cleaning service that’s reasonably priced which I’ve often used. There is a polite, bespectacled gentleman who runs a shoe-repair booth who I’ve exchanged pleasantries with. There is an ice-cream parlour with a large counter that I’ve salivated over.
I stare at the sign which contains warning signs explaining what can be done at the mall. Normally, I ignore these signs which tend to contain obvious instructions – No smoking; No skating; No pets; No cycling. Obvious stuff, but for a lawyer somewhere, the lack of such an instruction would help him win a case. For a teenager somewhere else, the lack of these signs would imply an invitation to run wild.
The sign I see today contains all this and more:
Taking a picnic is, apparently, prohibited in the mall.
Only in Belgium would you need a sign explaining that. Presumably, urinating freely on passers-by is therefore allowed.
Related Unexpected Traveller Posts:
- Honesty Is The Best Policy
- Lost In Translation (Part Deux)
- More Surreal Drinks
- Poor Choice Of Words
- Milking A Theme
If you liked this post, share it with a friend – click here!
If you’re not subscribed, why not receive updates from the Unexpected Traveller by e-mail? Use the links on the top-right to subscribe!