Station Stories

everyday stories

Fare evaders

Rail employees try not to travel in their uniforms.  If you do, you run the risk of having someone have a loud pointed conversation on the next seat about how crap Metro is (apparently you are supposed be so cut, you go home and sort this out) or how Myki (the ticketing system) is the worst thing that ever happened (Seriously if this is the worst thing that ever happened to you, I wish I had your life.)

However the other day, I didn’t have time to change.  As I pottered down the aisle looking for a seat, a young man did a double take, seized his laptop and fled out from the carriage.  Lol!  I suspected, and the woman opposite thought so too, that he feared I was a ticket inspector bringing fines and recriminations. Even though I am the greeniest, leftiest, bleeding heart liberalist person you are ever likely to meet, I enjoyed a dazzling moment of evil villain glee at having a young man flee before me.  Bwahahaha! Everyone has an inner fascist somewhere.


Trains and democracy

Last week was very quiet and the customers were disappointingly ordinary – aside from the man who got on the train with two shopping trolleys full of used bricks. (Trains are so useful when you don’t have a car) A teacher trailing a class of 40 or so students arrived during my barrier shift at the Junction.
“We’ve come down from the country for a tour of State Parliament and our bus has broken down,” he explained waving behind him. Sure enough there was a bus up the road with two men peering into it’s innards.
Being too humble a functionary to make any decision in this case I referred to the Station Master, who (most graciously) allowed them to finish their journey on the train without tickets. Thus did Metro facilitate these children’s political education and no doubt make the world safer for democracy (loud huzzahs all round)

The Ballad of C and M

I’ve mentioned my regular homeless couple C and M before. They were very happy together even though they lived in a derelict shed and supplimented their incomes by begging.  Last year they told me they’d moved into a friend’s house for the winter and I didn’t see them for a long time.  Then just before Christmas, I was on the train and who should come along but M.  He looked better dressed than usual.

“We’ve got into a house,” he said.  “We’re getting clean.  We’re trying to get the kids back.”

Wonderful Christmas news.

Alas it did not last.   A couple of weeks later, I saw M at the junction.

“She’s left me,” he said.  “I tried to stop her drinking so she left me and went off with some wino.  If you see her round tell her to come home.  Tell her I miss her.”

I haven’t seen C again.  From the things she shared with me when she’d had a few, stories of domestic violence with a previous partner and the removal of children by authorities, I suspect she has a lot of things to blot out. Sobriety wouldn’t come easily.

I’ve seen a lot of M though.  He travels down my line most days.  The new house is out the other side of town, but he assures me he’s still there.

“But my friends are all out here,” he says.

These days he mostly has a tin of Wild Turkey and Coke in his hand.


The injured bird

Slight stress at my station.  A little adolescent bird hangs round eating the bits of lolly and chip that have been dropped and using his “feed me” call in a very entitled manner at all and sundry. Earlier this week he seemed to have something wrapped around his legs.  His flying’s not too good either. All day I rang the Zoo but their phones were busy. I rang the Wildlife rescue who told me that since he could still fly, I’d need to catch him myself.  They suggested a box, some food and a stick.  A couple of the customers tried to help me with picnic blankets but no joy.  The bird was convinced our intentions were nefarious and were too fast. Finally at the end of my shift I walked down to the Zoo.  They were delighted to help and shortly two highly train vets were hunting my bird through the trees with huge professional looking nets. He was still too fast. I had to go home to a child’s birthday so I decided to try again the next day. Glory be! I’m not much good with animals so I was so relieved the next day when his legs seemed to be free again.  The vets may have caught him after I went home. They seemed devoted to their calling. Or maybe it all just came off by itself.

A regular customer

G, one of our regulars is extremely disabled.  He drives his wheelchair with a stick mounted on his head and communicates by tapping out words on a communicator.  Were I so disabled, I think I’d be scared to leave the house, but G goes out to his job most days and has a busy social life. Recently I was tasteless enough to tease him about checking out the pretty girls.  The way he taped out “I’m engaged” and the dignified way he looked at me as it sounded out, made me feel rather small. Serves me right!

Yesterday he was waiting for a friend at the barriers and we got chatting.  Hundreds of people headed for the Soundwave festival were going past and my task was to call out “Soundwave passengers – buses to the left!” at regular intervals.

I was startled to hear a little mechanical voice repeating my words. G had typed the words into his communicator and helpfully kept pressing the button at regular intervals until his friend arrived and he shot off in his wheel chair to greet him.


Star struck

A group of people are milling about near the barriers at the Junction.  When I see one of them having a makeup artist paint track marks on her arm, I realize they are some kind of film crew.   Exciting!

They chat and eat sandwiches until the Director, a tall dark haired woman in too tight jeans and tee-shirt and an impressive set of Tattoos, turns up.

The girl with the painted track marks asks me if this is a good job to go with acting and since we already have two actors working at my station I tell her yes.  (you can see one of them, wearing a plaid shirt  in the current Sportsbet ad.)

The girl is wearing a street hooker outfit with the most amazingly tall black shoes covered in spikes, which she walks in with great aplomb as the crew goes down to the platform to do its shots.  Her co-star (who has had to change in our toilets –shudder-) is a young girl in a school uniform with a peach coloured beanie.

I get chatting with the Assistant Director. He tells me it’s a professional shoot with funding, permits and and -well – an Assistant director. This is the Director’s second film and the Assistant tells me its his job to wrangle the actors and do all the administration so that the Director can concentrate on making the film.  Wow!  I’m in the wrong business.  I’d love to have an Assistant Writer.

But their enthusiasm is wonderful to see and reminds me that I too have a creative pursuit I love and which makes my life worthwhile.  (wish it paid a bit better, but then most of us are in the same boat)

The naughty bear

A small fluster at the Junction – an intellectually disabled man has dropped a toy bear in the pit and staff rally round quickly to rescue it with the station’s claw thing and prevent him from going onto the busy tracks after it.

This particular man is always carrying a toy.  It’s so odd because he has such a scary-looking face, crossed eyes and jagged teeth, the sort of face that would have drawn stones and jeers in a less enlightened time.  From the way he walks, I suspect he’s visually disabled as well. Yet he looks clean and well-cared for and seems happy in his own world and the companionship of his toy. If you talk to him he doesn’t answer. Perhaps he can’t hear.

It’s clearly a rather naughty bear. He holds it to his ear and listens to it and then he turns it over and smacks its bottom.  He does it again and again. Sometimes the bear is obviously very naughty and he puts it on the ground and turns his back on it.  I suspect was how it wound up on the tracks.

What I wonder is this – is this just some game with a toy or behavior he learned from his own childhood?

Station Stories

Chatting with a man waiting for a train.  “This is the first time I’ve seen my son in 3 months,” he says gesturing to the eight year old boy sitting in the waiting room.

“His mother was diagnosed with cancer and she went crazy and threw me out of the house and I haven’t seen her since.”

From the way he describes his ex-wife’s cancer, the poor woman’s not long for this world.  It’s ghoulish of me to be curious but boy oh boy I’d love know her side of this story.


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.


Lemon Scented Gums

I have the best work place.

“What’s that lovely smell?  It’s so fresh and lemony,” asked a Malaysian tourist yesterday as we watched the rain sheeting down outside the waiting room.  Truly I love standing under our big tin verandah and watching rain falling grey over the khaki coloured native trees in the park – especially if it’s warm rain.  The birds chortle with delight and the trees … Ah! Bliss.

“It’s the lemon scented gum trees,” I tell the impressed lady. “They let out a scent when it rains.”

There was the dark nutty undertone of wet wattle tree too.  Australian vegetation is gloriously smelly.

I do wish that I could get maintenance to fix my gutters though.  The roof overflows over the electrical box which is fortunately well sealed, the air conditioner, which I turn off as a precaution and me as I enter the office. All the more reason to stay outside and enjoy the rain.