What some women will risk for a bouquet of flowers

Photo: David Reali

Vienna on a summer evening: Michelle, a Canadian scientist, and her Austrian husband Oskar were meeting some American friends on a one-night stopover of a Danube river cruise. Michelle and Oskar had arranged to meet them in the lobby of the Hilton am Stadtpark. They arrived to find their friends waiting with a sumptuous bouquet of flowers for their hostess.

“It was one of those glorious, colourful masterpieces with sunflowers, roses, and more, wrapped in a bright crepe paper ‘Manschette’ holding them together, the way they do so well in the Viennese flower shops,” she said, still glowing.

It was a joyous reunion. They had a drink together and talked about the boat trip, and an hour  or so later, started to make their way to dinner at ‘Zum Alten Heller’ on Ungargasse.

At the table, the waiter produced a glass vase with water for the flowers, and so the magnificent bouquet adorned the table for all to enjoy, while they had an excellent dinner and a great time catching up, as wine and conversation flowed.

It was a lovely September evening as the four headed back towards the hotel; but one of the guests was feeling a little unsteady, so they decided on a whim to catch the tram. They waited. And waited. No tram. It was getting late and it was not clear if the tram line was still running. So they began to walk again.

However, just as they had crossed to the other side of the street, the tram arrived. Michelle raced back across, making for the back of the second car, and leaned on the door waiting for the others to arrive.  But as she stood there, the tram doors started to close.

“It was one of those older trams with folding double doors and a couple of stairs to climb up. Thinking that I could re-open the doors with an automatic sensor, I put my right arm into the tram as the doors were closing,” she said, ruefully.

That was the arm that was attached to the hand that was holding the bouquet. The doors clamped tightly on her forearm and wouldn’t give. And there she stood, her right arm, with the precious flowers in hand, stuck between the doors.

“I tried to pull my arm out, but I wanted the flowers too,” she remembered, “so I was trying to wedge the doors open with the other hand…”

Suddenly, the tram started to move. By that time, her husband had joined, with the friends close behind, all screaming at her to pull her arm out and leave the #%&@ flowers. Huge brouhaha and something close to panic.

Finally, Michelle managed to yank her arm out, leaving the bouquet pinned between the doors with the stems sticking out of the tram, just as a fellow on roller blades whizzed passed, nearly colliding with one of the quests. What else can happen, Michelle thought, shaken, and picturing the “what ifs” if she hadn’t removed her arm – and yet, still bereft over the lost flowers.

For several minutes, they stood there at the tram stop in shock, laughing nervously, a frantic Oskar berating Michelle for taking such a risk, when suddenly, out of nowhere, the roller-blader reappeared, skating straight for them.

He was carrying the bouquet. Silently, he handed the lost flowers to the astonished Michelle with a slight tilt of his helmeted head and a respectful and debonair bow.

“It was if we were back in the royal Habsburg court,” Michelle said, still amazed at the memory. Her effusive “Thank you so much” was still hanging in the air, when he quickly turned and skated away into the darkness.

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