De-training

 

Edward Burne-Jones 1898 The Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon

Recently I spent a Saturday shift de-training people (which is not nearly as exciting as defenestrating people or even as exciting as training people)
You walk down the train carriages making sure everyone is out before the train turns around and goes back to the city. It’s a simple job that mostly involves waking up people who are sleeping or engrossed in their ipods.
The only sleeper I had, a young man in black and a cloud of alcohol fumes, just wouldn’t wake up.
I shook him calling” Mate! Mate! Wake up!” (the magical railway incantation to awaken sleepers – I wonder if it works on Sleeping Beauty and the King under the Mountain- see above) The train driver also tried. No Joy!
We shrugged and gave up.
“I hope he’s still alive,” I said feeling guilty. He had felt warm enough.
“I once heard of a dead guy who travelled round on the London Underground for three days before anyone noticed him,” said the driver cheerfully.
This gruesome story pricked my conscience and after I’d finished checking the train I went back and tried again, this time shaking harder and yelling “Mate! Mate!” louder.
After a while the man stirred, lifted his head and regarded me with bleary eyes. I told him the train was going back to town. He put his head down and went back to sleep.
But at least I’d made sure he was alive! Job done.

Gender fluidity at the local station.

I’ve got a new regular.  J- a small neat slightly balding elderly man, who always wears a grey pullover over a series of attractive floral summer dresses. He’s friendly and we’ve swapped names, but he doesn’t have much conversation.  He just stands outside the station barelegged in the freezing wind, smoking strong smelling black market tobacco.  I felt relieved yesterday when he showed up wearing stockings under his usual ensemble, but the effect was undermined by the fact that they were held up with obviously uncomfortable garters and he kept lifting his skirt to adjust them.  He has fabulous legs – dancer’s legs – and nice little flat shoes. I see him walking along the bike path sometimes, trailing behind someone who I suspect may be his social worker.  “Look out for the bikes, dear,” she calls back to him.

J is not my only regular cross dresser.  There’s also a wheelchair man from further up the line who goes past the station in the train.  Sometimes he’s in women’s clothes, sometimes in men’s, sometimes in a mix.  But always he wears these dreadful unbrushed bird’s nest wigs that look like they’ve just been taken out of a drawer and plonked on his head.  But he has a lovely smile and we always wave as he goes past.

The music war

Spring is sprung and youths are riding on the back of trains again.  Two of them went by on the 1.04 on Thursday, bandannas round their faces and long blond hair flapping in the wind.  “I’m going to report you,” I yelled after them. You go inside and report them on the two way radio and by the time they reach the next station the driver knows they are there.  Very satisfactorily, these two jumped off and ran away at the next station.  These days I report them as coupling riders. If I report them as train surfers that really panics the control desk.  Train surfers are those who ride on the top of trains and since they are up there with a whole lot of high voltage electrical wiring they are really dicing with death.

It was a pleasure to stand outside in the warm spring sunshine watching the birds squabble over the sprinkling of chips left by a team of teenage footballers.  A man with a stylish haircut, wearing leather trousers and gold and black cats eye glasses (you’ll have to look them up- I couldn’t download a picture) jumped off the train, handed me a lost backpack containing a Nepalese passport and jumped back on.

Another man was singing along loudly and reasonably tunefully to some folksy album on his iphone.  Some thuggy looking 14 year olds arrived, full of attitude, carrying blaring loud rap music. For a while the two kinds of music warred in the waiting room.  The man’s singing was completely out of step with the kid’s music, but he was in his own little world and completely unaware of them. Interestingly enough he won the war and they turned their music down. Their leader, a solid looking girl with red dyed hair, shot me an anxious look.  She clearly thought he was mad.  I guess madness trumps attitude.

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Back in the wild west?

Last night a Station Master friend of mine was telling me about his new placement at a station in a less advantaged suburb.
“So I lifted the blind and there it was in the window. A bullet hole! Right smack level with were my head would be if I was sitting at the desk!”

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In the cutting

With permission from http://www.joshshalek.com/discarded-couches-of-portland/

Feeling rather small and ashamed today.  A member of the track cleaning crew dropped by and told me that while the trains were stopped for maintenance last night they’d taken the opportunity to clear up the couches in the cutting.  Ever since I saw those young men carrying couches up the cutting back in May I’ve been agitating to have them cleared away.  That’s because I was assuming this was a cubby house for young thugs or what we in the railways call a “shag garden”.  So I was horrified to discover that when the track crew went down there at 1.00 in the morning they found instead people sleeping in a homeless camp.  Now I hate myself for being just another authority figure persecuting the homeless who have enough problems as it is.

The Track Man told me that the homeless would probably come back.  It’s a really good place to camp if you want to be out of the wind and away from casual intruders.  I promised him I would never report those couches again at which he looked very relieved. They hate doing that kind of job and seem to have as much pity for the homeless as I do.  They’ve obviously seen way too much of it as has everyone in this time of rocketing rents.

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Complex

People are perplexing.  One of my regulars drives a motorized wheelchair.  He’s a pleasant looking young chap perhaps in his early thirties, neatly dress.  He probably has cerebral palsy because he stammers badly and when he gets off his chair, he walks crookedly and with difficulty.

We’ve had some nice chats since he moved into the area.  I thought he was down here in respite care while his parents were away on a cruise, but he seemed to be here for ages and ages – always longing to get home to his own place.  Then one day he was very excited because he was off to his hearing.  That was when he revealed that he was actually living in the area on a court order.  An AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) had been issued against him because he’d been stalking a local girl.  Maybe he only told me because he was certain the AVO would be lifted.  But it wasn’t and still hasn’t been after 6 months.

I realized that I had assumed that a guy in a wheelchair was harmless.  So I’m confronted with my own “ableism”.  Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous or criminal as the next person.

Also as a good paid up member of the feminist sisterhood, should I be chatting pleasantly to someone who has stalked another woman?  Isn’t that just normalizing such behaviour?  And yet this is a situation that I know nothing about. Who am I to judge without knowing all the facts? Is it indulging in mob behavior to suddenly start snubbing him?

He has told me he’s sorry for the whole situation and that he just wants to go home.  I don’t know.  I guess in the end you just treat people as you would like them to treat you. I have a very strong belief in hating the sin, not the sinner.  Or maybe I just don’t like confrontation.

Heffalumps

Pooh and Piglet
Creative Commons image

The International AFL Cup is being played in the park nearby and footballers from countries such as PNG, Fiji and Croatia as catching trains at my station.
While the French team wait, one of the players pulls a Winnie the Pooh book out of my children’s book box and starts reading it to the others who “oooh” and”‘ahh” at all the sentimental bits about the importance of friendship.
Outside freezing rain is streaming down, but inside I am being treated to the sound a Frenchman saying the word “Heffalump” Ooh la la! So cosy!
****
When people come into the station, I try to greet them with a “Hello, your city train will be here in … minutes”. This usually takes the worried look of their faces and they mostly say thank you.
The other day when I said “Hello your train will be here in 6 minutes” to the man frowning at the ticket machine, he didn’t react at all so I figured he hadn’t heard me.
He was still frowning when he came out onto the platform so thinking he was worried, I repeated my greeting.
To which he replied, “I heard you before. I just didn’t want to talk to you.”
This startling piece of rudeness put me in my place and no doubt relieved whatever tension he was feeling.
But be aware, any rudeness I experience from customers, I assume is directed at my uniform. So I don’t take it personally. Instead I store it up to giggle over with my work mates later., Which is what we did that day.

In the bleak mid-winter

Victorian Magpie.
Downloaded from Wikipedia. Thanks to John O’Neil

The station and the Zoo are very quiet in mid-winter. I do my best to keep warm and keep entertained. I observe my regulars.

One young man has been taking the train down to the gym every day and has metamorphosed most wonderfully from a doughy lad into a sleek athletic god. Another regular breeds guide dogs and shows me pictures of the pups.

I watch the magpies and their fledglings as they monster people for a bit of sandwich or a twistie. Handsome thugs! Sometimes I have to chase them off.

Last week’s peak event was finding three orthotics students sitting on a bench comparing the artificial legs they had just finished making. Not often you see three false legs together.
This week, I gave a broke young man a couple of dollars to get his myki working. He was very grateful. “At least let me play you a song” he said pulling out his guitar.
Every station needs someone strumming a guitar especially if they do it well.
He played a song asking why the world is so beautiful hanging in space and why we have these wonderful lives only to die. I knew I‘d heard it the radio but before I could ask him what it was the train came in and he had to grab his guitar case and hustle away.
Now I will never know what the song is. Unless someone out there knows it and can tell me?