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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Transatlantic‹  ›Lifestyle‹  ›EN‹   –  19.09.2011

Sounds of Childhood

The sound of the streetcar ringing brings back memories from an earlier time. Musings about our modern soundscape.

streetcar sceneRing-a-ding-a-ling! The streetcar rings loudly to warn a pedestrian poised to cross the street just in front of it. It’s a harsh, clattering sound that seems somewhat anachronistic amidst our modern soundscape defined by beeps, fancy ring-tones and other techy sounds. But, when you hear it, it’s unmistakable: rising over the din of traffic you know exactly what to look out for. Amazingly, the sound of the streetcar ringing hasn’t changed in as long as I can remember. And that’s probably exactly the point.

When I first came to Germany from the U.S. as a five year old, riding the streetcar was a very exciting thing to do. For a little girl who had grown up in car country, it sure was an exotic mode of transportation. Streetcars back then were narrow and pretty bare-bones compared to the high-tech models of today. To get on board, you had to climb up a few steps, which were steep and rather high for those little legs. Back then, streetcars also still had conductors wearing black uniforms and going around the car checking and selling tickets. They have long since been replaced with on-board vending machines that usually require more time to figure out than the duration of your entire ride. But even that’s passé – now, of course, hip people buy tickets with their smart phones. Let them things figure it out!

But, despite the modern looks and conveniences of today’s streetcars, they still sound absolutely the same as ever when they ring the bell. So, while our cell phones now mimic just about any sound available, from animal calls to the most annoying hit of the day, it’s comforting to know one thing will stay the same. That very special and unmelodic ring of the approaching streetcar will always rise above the cacophony of modern sounds, no matter how busy the traffic may be.