David Clark is a British businessman, who lived and worked in Bulgaria for 12 years before retiring to Norfolk U.K. He is writing short stories and poems. When he was living in Sofia, he had published stories in different media. A contributor to “Sofia Echo” newspaper. He had received an award for a short story from “Manager” magazine. At the moment he is living in England and sending stories to the expat site Sofia Globe. David is married to Galya, his Bulgarian wife for 16 years. He is a member of Writers Club in Hethersett, Norfolk and publish short stories in local media as „Village people“and others.
by David Clark
I have always been intrigued by the trams of Sofia as they clatter and rock along their rickety tracks. People standing in the road muttering to themselves and looking for the next tram, which should have been here ages ago and when you get in the tram all life is here, from the old man eating raw garlic out of a newspaper wrapping, to the middle aged ladies in their best coats and hats going shopping in the city and the young people staring at the screen of their mobile phones, fingers working at full speed, talking to their friends
Now Sofianites are not known for their athletic prowess but there is one sport they excel at and maybe it should be included as an Olympic sport. It’s called, ‘beat the ticket inspector’.
To travel on public transport including the famous trams you should buy your ticket at the various booths and offices throughout the city and then when you get on board clip them with the machines that are spread through the tram/bus this imprints a specific pattern on the ticket which identifies it as having been used on this particular bus or tram. So it’s mainly an honesty system but there are a number of roving ticket inspectors who hop on and check your ticket. But, If you are caught without a correctly stamped ticket they will fine you ten times the normal fare – a large punishment. This leads to Sofianites favourite game, ‘avoid the inspector’. As soon they are seen to get on board, the tram empties with a speed normally unseen and unknown in the city.
When I had an office in Sofia, at one time, I employed a bilingual girl secretary who, although good at her job, was rather wild. She had spent the winter partying as a ski instructor and was whiling the summer away in Sofia. The fun really started when we had to go for an appointment on the other side of the city. It was a wet and miserable day and the traffic was so bad I decided to travel by tram. Climbing aboard I clipped my ticket, but Stani didn’t appear to have one. ‘’Don’t you want a ticket? ‘’ I said. ‘’No’’, she replied, ‘’I’m not buying a ticket in protest at the state of these trams’’. I hadn’t seen a ticket inspector for ages, but as sods law would have it, at the next stop, on got the inspector. He began inspecting the tickets and I waited with interest to see what would happen. He came to me showed his authorization card and inspected my ticket, then said to Stani ‘’where’s your ticket?’’,’’ I haven’t got one she replied, ‘’ I’m not buying tickets for these dirty, run down, trams’’. ‘’ Grimacing at her cheek he said, ‘’Well in that case I’m fining you ten times the fare’’. With a toss of her head Stani fired back ‘’I haven’t got any money’’, ‘’Show me your ID card’’, ‘’I haven’t got it with me’’, ‘’Well I invite you to get off the tram then’’ She stared at him in disbelief, ‘’Why should I do that, I haven’t got to where I’m going yet!’’ The argument continued at every stop with the inspector getting more and more angry. Stani continued smiling sweetly and refusing to get off, while the other passengers enjoyed the fun and silently urged her on.
Eventually we arrived at our destination and stepped out onto the rain soaked street, but the inspector was not was not giving up, walking beside her with the rain dripping from his jacket and still demanding money. ‘’The problem is’’ said Stani ‘’he knows I’m with you and you’ve got money’’. ‘’O.K I said, I’ll pay him or he’ll make us late’’. ‘’Oh It’s my fault, you can deduct it from my wages ‘’ said Stani.
On the way back we again got on a tram and I said in my innocence, ‘’I expect you’re going to buy a ticket this time?’’ ‘’Certainly not’’ said Stani. ‘’I’ve got to take ten free rides now to get my money back!!’’
© David Clark