Another Day at Karlsplatz

Columns | Marlies Dachler | February 2008

I was on the way home from downtown Vienna, attempting to catch the U4 at Karlsplatz. Navigating through the groups of junkies and trying not to trip over empty beer cans, I couldn’t miss the spiffy new mirrored walls lining the concourse from Karlsplatz to Akademiestrasse. In 30 cm black lettering, fascinating facts were embedded in the glass along with a digital display recording the changing statistics proving the point:

Since Jan. 1, for example, 235,289 tons of waste had been collected by Vienna garbage trucks; that 452,958 books had been borrowed from Viennese libraries; and that 552,455 people were unhappy with their jobs.

However, what grabbed my attention most was that Austrians had consumed over a million Schnitzels, in fact 1,081,465 to be precise, since the New Year had begun.  As I was absorbing this marvelous, indispensable fact, I caught sight of a weary, ragged man out of the corner of my eye, half kneeling just behind, reflected in the glass. He was wearing a torn red ski jacket and baggy brown trousers, with two days growth of beard. He held his hands in front of him, meeting at the heel in supplication, begging for food. I felt the urge to look away, but didn’t want to be just another passer by. But what could I do that would make any difference?

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