Station Stories

everyday stories

Into the Pit?

An intellectually disabled man is bickering with his mother as they wait for the train.

“Take your coat off, you’re too hot,” she says.

He pouts.  “No! Shut up!”

3 minutes before the train I turn and see him at the edge of the pit sitting down and putting his legs over the edge. Is he about to jump onto the tracks?

“No, no, no!” I scream and rush at him, panic jolting through my nerves.  “Please stop!”  I grab his hood, which comes off in my hands, and then his collar and hold on hard, shouting, “No No!”

He bursts into tears and rolls back on the platform.

Now I feel like a brute. He wails like a small child as I apologize and tell him I’m not mad as him. “Please don’t cry,” I beg in front of the whole crowded platform.

His mother comes over, picks him up and pats him. I tell her I’m sorry for making her son cry

“I was going to let him sit till the train comes and then get him up,” she said. “It works better that way.  He’s always doing it. He never gets down on the tracks.”

I’m glad she knew what was going on.  When I was in training, they warned us to mentally prepare ourselves in case we saw someone hit by a train someday.  I honestly thought my turn had come.

As the train rolls in, I bring out some small gifts – a bottle of water and a zoo badge.  I still feel like a complete heel.

His face is red and soggy from crying but he’s pleased with the badge and gulps down the water gratefully.

“There you WERE hot,” says his mother. “I told you to take your coat off.”

“No! Shut up,” he says.

 

Manning the barriers at the Junction

The perfect  Christmas gift?
The perfect Christmas gift?

 

 

Its all go at the Junction

Monday – The Medic found two little kids, 12 and 9, running barefoot round the station and discovered they’d run away from foster care the night before.  Since the older child was mentally handicapped it was the younger who was the brains behind this scheme.

He persuaded them to come into the station for muffins and trainspotting till the police and Child Services arrived.

 

Tuesday – A man was yelling racial abuse at a lady in a headscarf (this was the day after the Sydney Siege.) Other customers stood up for her and the police arrived and took him aside for stern talking-to. One of the few good things to come out of this horrible event is the “#I’ll ride with you movement which makes me kinda proud.

 

Wednesday – I drew the short straw and got the job of cleaning vomit out of the sink in the women’s toilets. This is a matter of pouring water into the sink and then massaging the contents with a toilet brush till it all goes down the plug hole.  A customer poked her head in the door while I was doing this and we had a ruefully humorous conversation about the nastiness of it all.  When I emerged from the toilets feeling as if I’d never be clean again, I discovered that she had paid for the kiosk to make me a coffee as a reward for the task. Bless her! The coffee went down a treat.

 

Thursday – Technology failure!!!!!  All the screens went blank and I was forced to rely on the paper timetables in order to give train information.  (OMG! Quelle Horror!)With the help of the people in the control room and the fact that the trains ran pretty much to schedule we muddled through bravely for an hour and a half until the screens came back and we were able to rejoin the modern world again.

 

Friday – I’m went in early for Christmas morning tea and an exchange of Kris Kringles.  This year I drew one of the bosses and bought him a sauce gun – a plastic gun-shaped tomato sauce bottle.  I figured this was the perfect gift for a man who is soon to have 5 children under 10 and look forward to seeing pictures of the resulting mayhem.

And then I manned the barriers (sounds very Les Miserables, doesn’t it?) Mayhem occurred when a group of kids on bicycles invaded the station riding and chucking wheelies on the concourse and platforms and flipping us the bird when we asked (with increasing ferocity) that they stop. But Age and Cunning will always win over Youth and Beauty.  One of them was unwise enough to leave his bike unguarded while he went to the toilet.  I yielded to a bad impulse, put the bike in the lift and pressed it to go down to the platform.  Then I locked myself in the office and made him beg me to tell him where it was.  Satisfying, but I suspect ultimately it’s unwise to up the ante like that.

Sunday at the station

Sunday – the thought of all that lovely overtime money comforts me as I stand by the barriers on my rubber mat (makes your knees ache less at the end of the day) in the chilly wind and hope someone is going to ask me a question before my brain explodes from boredom.  Fortunately last weekend Stereosonic was on at the Showgrounds and droves of people streamed up the escalators to catch the special train on plat 6 giving me a chance to catch up on young folks fashion.  Coloured hair seems to be all the rage this year but the dark haired girl with the tight yellow leggings and fake breasts in the leopardskin bra top seemed to be making an original statement of her own.  They all had to go to the toilets. Since several of them seemed to go in at a time leaving a distinctly alcoholic smell behind them, I concluded they were just using them in the traditional way.  We ran out of toilet paper and didn’t have the key to change it and since I could hear the young folks telling each other to take some extra loo-paper to use later, I figured putting a loose roll in wasn’t going to last long.  So in the interests of everyone getting an equal share, I doled out bits to the toilet goers.  After five years of study at Victoria’s best universities, it has come to this.  I am a glorified toilet attendant.

The Iceman Cometh

 

Imaged pinched from the ABC
Imaged pinched from the ABC

 

While working in the booking office at the junction, I met this week’s Customer of the Week.  A vague cheerful heavyset man, he stood at the window searching though his wallet.

He’d lost something valuable, he told us.

My friendly workmate pointed out his credit card was sticking out of his shopping bag – a bag that also contained nappies.

“It’s not that,” he said, though he was glad to have it found.

“Have you lost your Myki train pass?” she asked

He kept on searching.

“No. Something much more valuable.”

“Then it must be drugs,” joked my workmate.

Funny how when making a risky joke, you sometimes get the right answer without meaning to. A moment later the man had pulled a little packet of Ice Crystals and was showing it to us with all the nonchalance of a man showing a new sim card. Apparently he should have had two packets and could only find one.

“That’s 800 dollars gone,” he said.

So there we were examining this tiny packet of highly illegal substance.

“It looks like shards of glass,” said my co-worker politely. Hard to know the etiquette of such moments, but politeness seemed the best policy at that point.

“Yes, it’s very pure,” he said.  “I’ll cut it.  Perhaps I left the other packet where I was before. I’ll go and look.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” I said

Always good to make helpful noises when unsure of etiquette.

Tucking the packet back in his wallet he moved away from the counter before turning back to correct any possible misconceptions.

“Not that I use it you understand.  This is just business.”

Apparently that was supposed to be better.

I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe this station story.  We aren’t sure we believe it either.

 

Station Stories -Thank God for the Salvos

 

Metro and the Salvos have a project going on where bands of youth workers rove the trains and stations, talking to young people and heading off potential graffiti etc.  I know this because they’ve started to come to the station when out Flexible Learners come in from their school. They hand out lollipops and chat to kids and try to entice them into their Employment and drug counselling programs.  Things have been pretty toxic with the FL’s these last few months.  There’s been verbal abuse, racial vilification and one incident of breaking into a car and fighting with police that lead to kids being arrested. Individually they seem like nice enough kids, but it’s hard to take the long view that these are troubled kids for who need to be patiently enticed away from behavior that will lead to jail in later life when you’ve had them telling you that you’re a F***ing M*** and I know where you live. But having the Salvos there does seem to help keep a lid on things. And they had out lollipops to the rest of us too.

Seniors Week, Zombies and Hot Cross Buns

Seniors week and the trains are full of happy seniors living large, going places (for Free!) taking country trains or taking their grandchildren to the zoo(for Free!). For instance I met two at the junction station who had been up to Flemington Bridge to the Homy Ped shoe factory there (4 pairs of shoes for $150!) and were now off to Werribee to visit a friend. Such larks!
Seniors week didn’t make much difference to Mr A. He’s an elderly Italian man with such bad arthritis in his shrunken swollen fingers, he has trouble gripping his MYKI card and we all just open the gate for him instead. Every day regular as clockwork he stumps in and takes the train over to Footscray market to do his shopping. He goes twice on the weekends when his family visits and he needs two trips to manage the load
There was a Zombie shuffle in town and about half a dozen Zombies dressed up in their excellent blood red and rot black make-up came through. What was funniest was the way the ticket inspectors stiffened when they saw them. Not being as hip and cool to the trend as Moi :), they thought they had a first aid situation on their hands.
But the cutest thing I saw at the junction didn’t concern seniors. It was the nerdy youth all in heavy metal black with the upside down white cross on his black baseball cap. Made him look like a hot cross bun. Sooo Cute!
Probably not the effect he was going for.

So Hungover

 

A man got off the train and collapsed onto a seat with his face in his hands.  When I went over to see if he was alright, he said, “I’m just sooo hungover. I had to get off the train.”  Poor thing, he didn’t thing he could even keep a glass of water down.  Unfortunately he’d chosen the wrong station for a quiet sit down. About 5 mins later 100 cheery school children came over from the Zoo.

Missing partner

On Friday C, one half of a homeless couple who frequent the station and make a living begging at the local shops, had mislaid her partner M. She came through the station twice, all the time worrying, worrying, about M.  First she went to the case worker and then to her partner’s step father as he is the contact if the police or hospitals pick up M when he’s drunk or has had an epileptic fit. She wasn’t willing to ring the police directly.  She clearly didn’t trust them.

C and M doss down in an old shed somewhere near the park which they say is nice and dry, thought I was relieved to hear that they have moved in with a friend for the winter.  Once when she was a bit drunk, C told me all about her life which seemed to involve abuse by ex-prisoner partners, estranged children and struggles with the State Trustees. She’s short and round and very non-descript looking, but on the rare occasions she takes off her beanie, she has beautiful auburn hair. She and M seem very happy together – a world of their own contained in the small backpacks they carry round.  I was very glad to see M safely back yesterday when he waved out of the train at me as they were going by.

Station Stories – Noisy Mynahs take the bread loaf

Wednesday was one of those beautiful autumn days Melbourne specializes in.  Sunny with a slight chill in the air that sparkles on the skin like cool champagne sparkles on the tongue.  In the Sunflower field by the railway lines, the three homeless men were sitting outside the tent having yarn in the sun.  At my station the trees were bright with birdsong and the (Australian native) noisy mynahs were out in force, beating up impertinent top knot pigeons and squabbling over squashed jelly snakes.  Someone had thrown a loaf of bread still in its plastic bag onto the tracks and a neat circle of four mynahs had formed around it   As I watched, the one standing in the middle leaned over and with the flourish of someone instructing a class, pulled a crust out of a hole in the bag.