I have added bird wrangler to my list of skills. Recently I spotted one of the local magpies – the limping matriarch I have written about before – climbing into one of the carriages of a halted train with her eye on a squashed biscuit inside. I rushed down the platform yelling at her. I should instead have rushed towards the driver making the stop signal. The doors closed on us both inside the carriage and a panicked magpie was between me and the emergency button. She yarped and pecked the window and flew up and down the carriage causing people to duck and cover their faces. A generally terrifying time was had by all for the next 2 minutes. The largeness of a magpie and the fierce pointiness of its beak are particularly noticeable in an enclosed space. When the train pulled up at the next station, everyone pulled open their closest door and after a bit of prompting, the magpie matriarch got out and flew off. I went back to Zoo station on the next down train after a 15 minute wait and wondered if she’d find her way back. Great relief when I saw her an hour and a half later, seemly uninjured, limping around the platform looking for biscuit crumbs. Hopefully she will not climb into a train again.
A very odd couple were sitting in the waiting room although I shouldn’t really say that because the man kind enough to explain my blue tooth to me. Also should I perhaps be more humble towards those so pointedly more materially sucessful than me? But I shall call it as I see it. They were both wearing North Face by Gucci outfits complete with the bucket hats pictured above and because they had normal shaped bodies they looked like a pair of shiny gold and tan tents. Between them, they were wearing $14,000 of blingy clobber. I wonder what material that Gucci stuff is made of. It looked rather ungiving. I’m always startled when I see designer gear at the station. But after all, rich people like animals too and it’s sensible, easy and safe to come to the zoo by train.
It’s 9 degrees which is cold for Melbourne. The wind is freezing. The trains are running late. When I ask the control room why, they tell me they are waiting for the police to come and collect an erratically behaving passenger at the end station. The passenger has taken off his clothes and is rolling round on the platform. Poor man. Presumably its drugs. Too many of the wrong ones or too few of the right ones.
12 degrees, a sharp wind and torrential rain. At the station 20 well wrapped up elderly people are off for an excursion to the city. They seem to have picked up an escort of four police officers and 3 ticket inspectors. It’s probably a coincidence that they are all traveling together. Melbourne hardly has the level of crime that requires the elderly to be so guarded. Although… could they be guarding us from the delinquency of the old folks??? Al a the Goodies and Monty Python.
As the rain comes down in sheets a group of damp Singaporeans draggle into the station, just missing a train. I feel so sorry for these tropical folk. Its 12 degrees. They’ve come down to Melbourne to see snow, but the snowfields aren’t open yet. The Kangaroos and Koalas in the zoo are all hiding from the cold. Then a dear little toddler arrives in the waiting room and everyone enjoys cooing over him and trying to warm up his little hands. He takes the attention with bemused calm. Grampa is relieved to have a break. He’s very damp and cold whereas his grandson is wearing a very impressive snow suit.
Chatting to one of my regulars we are joined by a nice smiling but slightly odd man. Somehow we get chatting about the meaning of the word sartorial. Which is how we find out this pleasant man has had a brain injury and has trouble remembering the meanings of words. He tells us all about it, how he was dead for several minutes and how they had to rebuild his skull. Apparently he was a very high functioning aeronautical engineer before it all. Now he gets lost trying to come to the Zoo by train, he tells us happily. “Once they saw my brain scans they said I’d never work again. Look” and he show me the brain scan on his mobile phone. “Look at all that black” he says. The fact that he’s so happy makes the experience of looking at a stranger’s brain scans much less disturbing than it might otherwise be.
Do you remember Tram boy? https://beat.com.au/the-legacy-of-tram-boy-the-15-year-old-who-stole-a-tram-for-a-joyride-around-melbourne/ Tram boy was a 15 year old boy who stole two trams one weekend in 2005 and drove them a total of 25 kms picking up passengers on the way. Apparently he’s a kind of Ned Kelly hero for some people including a young intellectually disabled man who sometime sits with his carer watching the trams. “Have you heard of me,” he cries. “I’m Tram boy. I stole that Tram and drove it all around. One day I’m going to steal one of your trains too. You tell them. I’m going to steal one of your trains. You’ll see.” I guess we will.
The woman on Platfrom 2 had clearly never worn a bra and her breasts hung freely, almost down to her navel. She was clearly someone unfettered by femine custom/ limitation. She had short hair, shorts and a t’shirt, all very pale. Calmly she scratched her crotch. What made her stand out even more was her travelling companion. I wasn’t sure if she was friend, family member, social worker, client or girlfriend? What ever their relationship, the companion was wearing full hijab. In the 33 degree heat. Together the two of them seemed to constitute some kind of metaphor of the extremes of feminity. Or perhaps just the diversity of femine life.
Last Friday when horrible Putin made his first moves into Ukraine, I was busy making sure that my regulars, many of whom work weekends, knew our line would be closed that weekend. We always put up signs but people don’t read them and most of them were glad to be reminded/informed. Except for the grumpy old suitcase/homeless man who usually checks his myki but never actually takes a train. He responded by saying, “Why are you bothering about that? We’re on the verge of WW3. You need to stop worrying about that and get prepared, Woman… etc. etc. etc.”
I guess that told me (Hope he’s wrong, just bye the bye)
I have discovered a hitherto unsuspected strain of house proudness in my character. Zoo station is being renovated. They are replacing the worst termite and rot damaged weatherboards and giving it all a lick of paint. I’m just so THRILLED. I’m very fond of the battered old 1930’s building I work in. They’ve taken the boards off the waiting room windows and are planning to put in glass. We (the tradesmen and myself) feel that this is a triumph of optimism over experience. However…. Maybe there is some higher plan…???
A number of the passengers have asked me if there is something different about the waiting room. Apparantly the huge new window in the wall and the light streaming into the waiting room are hard to notice. Anyway a team of painters have now repainted the waiting room – in exactly the same colours, but it looks so clean and fresh, that I’ve had to point it out to a few of my favored regulars lest they miss its brief moment of glory.
I’m not sure this house proudness is going to be healthy for me in the long run. Someone put anti-vaxxer stickers in my new toilets this week and I was furious.
I first met Creek Man about 3 years ago. He was the cheery guy with the balding, slightly out-of-control hair and a sly smile who was building a shack. He’d go to the Bunnings up the line and bring small piles of building materials back down on the train. Being a nice orderly mainstream person I assumed he was building a shack on his own land.
Why build otherwise?
It only slowly dawned on me that he was actually a rough sleeper, squatting down there behind one of the hospitals, apparently with a nudge and wink from security?!! He always spent the winter on a farm in the country and lived in a tent down at the creek in the summer. He’d been there for 14 years. Hence, I guess, the urge to build four walls and a floor. But he kept faith with the idea of a tent by only roofing his shack with a tarpaulin.
To be honest I was not a big fan of Creek man, mostly because he was so boring. He’d repeat himself, telling me about how he’d once be a carpenter and how he was making the walls out of one kind of board and the floor out of another, about how he had a little camp stove to cook with and how he had a family of ringtail possums living in the trees above his shack who were company for him. The camp by the creek sounded wonderfully idyllic but not again and again. And sometimes he’d stay to chat for a WHOLE hour, missing several trains, telling me the same things again and again.
“He’s just a lonely old guy,” said one of my regulars who got collared by him once. Easy for her to say. She could leave.
Compassion set in at last, especially after last year when he started to look so ill, hobbling along at a snail’s pace on painful knees, all his industry gone. His topics had switched to what the doctors had said and which knee was more swollen. (And they were swollen, he showed the whole waiting room one day.) I became more patient at listening. You had to admire the way he still kept pushing on; still with smiling his sly smile, keeping himself and his clothes clean, hobbling onto the train to go down to the supermarket to have a sit in the warm and buy something for tea.
It took me about two months to realize he was missing. Around Christmas one of the hospital people told me his shack had burned down and his gas bottles had exploded. Apparently he wasn’t there when it happened but it was tenth hand information so I couldn’t be certain of that. No one knew where he was.
I was forced to file Creek Man away among the many, many station stories that finish with a sad, I-don’t-know-how-it-ended-I-hope-they’re-all-right.
Good News! Yesterday he popped up at the station, looking fresh and new, moving as he did of old, with that sly smile just that bit broader. He’d been in hospital having his knees done when his shack had burned down. He was sad about it but Human Services had him in a motel with the promise of an apartment somewhere down the line. (During Covid Human Services seem to have suddenly got a whole lot better at housing people.)
Of course he went on in lots of detail about his other aching joints, but I was just glad to see him safe and well.
“I should be good for another 66 years now,” he said chirpily as he waved good-bye.