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.
Two kids in their early teens are having a great time shooting some kind of video on their mobile phones at Junction Station . They’re at that age (say 13?) when the boy is often smaller than the girl. He has not yet hit puberty, while she is resplendent in her new womanly body (albiet with puppy fat) and is wearing little black shorts so tight her butt cheeks are wobbling out the bottom of the legs. This seems to be a source of great hilarity to them.
They’ve got the phone in the corner of the waiting room and as I watch, she leans face against the wall, waggles her bottom at the camera and peers provocatively over her shoulder. He dances up behind her and pats her bottom so that her butt cheeks wobble wildly. They both giggle and rush back to see the result on the phone.
I’m a bit shocked by what I see as the whole sexist objectification of this. Was it for this that my feminist forebears marched and struggled?
But, you know, this could be just some kind of ironic meme-making that someone of my advanced years is not going to get – ridiculous rather than lubricious.
I hope so anyway.
The whole thing reminds me of the time I saw a young woman at my station wandering around with her shirt undone so that her bra showed. I siddled up and whispered that her bra was showing only to have her smile tolerantly and tell me that it was intended to be so. I felt old that day and I do today.
Is it time to accept that I’m out of date and just give up the ideological stage to so that another generation can have their turn at strutting and fretting upon it, I wonder?
Since I arrived at Zoo station I’ve been strategically reminding the higher ups that we have no public toilets at zoo station. At least twice a day someone asks me for them. At last some Covid rebuilding money became available and last week this nice little building arrived. I couldn’t resist making a celebration out of the whole thing with a bit of ribbon cutting and doughnut eating. (Yes that’s me in the mask)
A young Muslim woman in a black head scarf came though the station this week. She was modestly covered in a black tunic and black jeans. Except that the clothes were torn and held together with vast numbers of safety pins, she had a lock and chain round her neck and she was sporting a pair of black platform women’s combat boot with chains and other metal bits. (See above)
A nicely judged mix of modest and edgy, I thought.
The day after the very contested Australia/Invasion Day I see my local possum climbing out of the bin holding a piece of vegemite toast in his mouth. It all seems vaguely symbolic though I’m not sure what of. Is this a You Beaut Aussie battler possum celebrating our great country’s favorite snack? Or is it symbolic of the degradation of our native fauna by invader culture?
Both at the same time maybe
Or maybe just symbolic of the opportunistic nature of hungry possums.
A young man is sitting on the station wearing a mask – a paper mask showing the face of a cheerful pug dog with its tongue hanging out. I’d already noticed him waiting through two trains and now he’s put on this mask. Definitely time to ask. “Are you O.K.?” He pulls up the mask. “Yes I’m fine,” he replies cheerfully. In the face of such cheeriness, I feel a need to explain my officious behavior. “Sorry, it’s just that when you work at a station you need to look out for people’s um… mental health,” “Sure. I don’t blame you for asking,” he replies, smiling and putting his mask back. So that’s that. He seems sane enough. But he’s wearing a pug mask. On an ordinary weekday. The mystery is solved -sort of – when the next train came in and a young woman gets off and greets him. She doesn’t acknowledge the mask, but she seems pleased to see him.