VIENNA IN ENGLISH - EIN VERSCHMITZTER BLICK AUF DIE EIGENHEITEN DER STADT.
This expat of over 20 years finds a hidden political agenda in the passenger information stickers in tram and U-Bahn. A virtual ride to find the source of this sticky story.
Expats are inevitably challenged in their early days in a new city with a new language – but in Vienna, hometown of Otto Neurath, the father of pictograms, there is help at hand. Cute little symbols of knives and forks, elevators and escalators, ATMs and garbage cans are a guide in dark places.
The Wiener Linien, Vienna’s splendid system of subways, trams and buses, also use images to encourage civility. Discreet decals suggest giving up seats to those who need them more, an old man with stick, a blind man, a pregnant woman, a mother with infant . . . But wait! Didn’t I just see a woman with stick, a blind woman, and a man holding the baby? (Happily, it’s still the woman who is pregnant.) Am I hallucinating . . . Or is there a message lurking in here somewhere. A few more rides and the pattern is clear: It’s no illusion, the newer trams and subway cars all carry these pictograms. Is three women to one man the new gender parity? Don’t creaky old men still deserve respect? Is the cosy conservative Vienna of Sachertorte and Fiaker leading the neo-feminist charge? ViennaToo?
I determine to track down the source of this subtle social engineering. First call to the Wiener Linien on a Monday morning: Only the Pressestelle can help me find the people responsible and PR are not talking to the press today, they’re in an all-day workshop. Two days later I reach them: An intern answers, has no idea, „Ich leite es weiter . . .“(I’ll pass it on), worldwide bureaucrat-speak for „You’re interrupting my coffee break, I’ll get to it after lunch, tomorrow.“And anyway, „why would you want to know?“she adds. I decide to continue the search in my imagination. I am in a graphics studio dedicated to public transport advertising and signage, specialists in self-adhesive foil decals of amazing quality. Like a helter-skelter ride in slow motion I am shunted through various departments – procurement, advertising, forward planning, book-keeping and track maintenance – every station of my odyssey seemingly further from my quarry. Who is the perpetrator of the new gender imbalance?
Finally, the breakthrough: „That will be Room G430,“somebody tells me, Stiege 2, fourth floor. Already in my fevered imagination I am striding down the G corridor, flinging open the door without knocking, catching my prey in flagrante in the very act of completing a new act of social sedition on sticky labels . . . „But it’s Friday, they go home at 13:00 . . .“continues the voice. Foiled again, as it were. As any coffee house philosopher can tell you, there are some mysteries, we may never be granted to understand. Dieser Artikel ist Teil einer redaktionellen Kooperation mit METROPOLE – Vienna in English, dem monatlichen Stadtmagazin für internationale Wiener.