Mates on a train

Last weekend the duck and I took a tram for the first time in over a month. We knew that the Berlin public transport experience would change due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the relative emptiness and calmness we got to experience throughout our ride was still shocking. See, in Tokyo the duck and my main worry was figuring out how to increase our chances of landing a seat; in Berlin we do enjoy seated travel, but we appreciate a relatively steady noise level that allows us to read or get some studying done even more. If we sit around groups of people who know each other (mates, if you will), or someone who has a long debate over the phone, it can be hard to concentrate on a book or new vocabulary. Often those conversations are so lively and loud that we can’t help but listen in and thus broaden our understanding of the human condition (ha! That’s what we’ll call being unintentionally nosy from now on). After a year of witnessing Berlin public transport discussions, most of them interesting, some uncomfortable, the duck and I feel like we know the people of this city.
While we do enjoy the occasional caught conversation, we still prefer being somewhat productive during our commutes. This is why, once we have to take trains more often again, we will continue to look for seats near book-reading or headphone-music-listening solo travelers rather than mates on a train (we tried; we failed; we’re too lazy to change the title).
Now that face masks are mandatory on public mask ducktransport (I never expected to see masked riders in Berlin), the duck and I have found a new thing to look out for to avoid all those exciting train discourses: people who sport makeshift masks! It seems to us that those folded bandana/former t-shirt/no-sew masks have a tendency to muffle speech more than the store-bought single-use or sewed varieties. Where do you think scarves fall on the muffled-speech-through-mask spectrum?
We’ll go back to folding some more ugly, uneven no-sew masks for our muffled-sound-collection now. Please stay safe and considerate (and hopefully somewhat cheerful despite the uncertainty), everyone!

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