Column | Sept. 29

A whimsical tale of the Dinky canopy

By Ellen Chances

Once upon a time, there was a canopy that stood tall and happy at the Princeton train station. She eagerly awaited the Dinky, as the little train returned from his adventures in the land of Princeton Junction. The canopy loved to watch the engineer and conductor step through the Dinky door. She loved to watch the passengers, as they went to and from the Dinky. She especially loved to watch the people who met or bid farewell to loved ones. (She secretly dubbed them “kissers” as she blushed and chuckled to herself.) The canopy loved the springtime, when staccato melodies of newborn sparrows filled the air.

One day, the canopy became sad. There were no more kissers, no more passengers, no more conductors, no more engineers. And there was no more Dinky that used to stop right next to her, every half hour.

The canopy was lonely. People rushed by. No one walked on the platform that she carefully sheltered, night and day. She heard the Dinky in the distance, but she couldn’t see him. Metal fences surrounded her. No one waited with her for the Dinky to arrive and leave.

The canopy became lonelier and lonelier. No one needed her anymore. On rainy days and snowy days and hot sunny days, she had once felt proud that she could protect the Dinky passengers-to-be. She had once felt good that every spring, her wooden beams were homes for sparrow nests.

The canopy decided that everyone had forgotten her. She felt rejected and abandoned. She was broken-hearted. She felt so despondent that she crumpled to the ground, her purpose in life dissipating in dust and smoke.

The moral of my humble tale: Did the Arts and Transit Neighborhood committees and commissions and consultants, planners and designers and architects, ask the canopy what she thought about moving the Dinky station? No, they did not. Dear reader, you will certainly agree that they should have.


Ellen Chances is a professor of Russian literature in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures.  She can be reached at

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