In which we lose customers

 

 

It’s over 37 degrees and muggy.  Cicadas are screaming in the trees outside.  A family, mum and 5 kids, stagger into the waiting room, red-faced and sweating, and collapse on the seats. At first they take the news that their train has just left with equanimity

Unfortunately Shouty Man has got off the train they just missed.  Shouty Man is a heavily built 40 something man who walks around angrily shouting f*** off you ugly C***  and other such abuse at no one in particular.  He’s a regular. He seems to be harmless.  But he’s scary enough that I’ve had tradesmen get ready to protect me from him. As he strides through the waiting room furiously swearing and telling people to F*** off it’s hard not to take it personally.  He makes it worse by slamming his fist on the telephone kiosk as he goes out the door.

“I’m never coming by public transport again,” breathes the mother.

Can’t say I blame her.

Public transport is one place where the fortunate come into contact with the less fortunate.

Singers

Melbourne zoo carousel

 

This week I met T and his mum, C.  C was a lovely chatty woman in a leopard skin jumpsuit with bright blonde hair who stopped outside the station for a post-zoo smoke.  Her son T stood against the wall nearby.  He was a smiling visually disabled man.  Possibly he was intellectually disabled too although he may just have had a puckish sense of humor.  He started singing in a pleasant tuneful voice and when he got to the part about hopping he jumped up and down.

“Now he knows he’s got an audience he won’t stop,” said C cheerily.  “There’s a spider monkey in the zoo he always sings to.  It loves it. Comes right up to him.”

That and the Carousel were apparently his favorite zoo things.

The other singer this week was an 8 year old girl in glasses and a blue dress who started singing “Twinkle twinkle little star,” while her mother tried to work out the ticket machine.  Was it the weather that bought out this tunefulness? It IS finally summer.

“Fun” at the Junction

Small spaces

A torrid hour at the junction when we have a signal failure affecting several lines.  The people on the C line are told leave Platform 2 for Platform 6 and after 15 minutes told to go to Platform 4.  3 trains worth crowd onto the 1 train.  They are understandably pissed off when they are told the train won’t be going down the C line.  I try to answer people’s questions, but I don’t know much. It’s no one’s fault.  Control are moving what trains they can when they can and it’s all very spur of the moment.  A drunk decides this is a good time to try and pick up one of my colleagues with revolting hip wiggles and leering.  We chase him off telling him we’re just too busy.

Everyone is mad.  I get in the lift and am hit by a wall of angry testosterone.  An African couple – wife in hijab and a Bogan couple are facing off in the tiny crowded space.  I’m sure the Bogan couple have said something nasty to the African couple but at this point the Bogans are the ones offended. “That’s not very nice to call us Junkies” they cry. It’s a fair complaint.  They stink of alcohol, not drugs.  It’s a long tense 30 second ride and everyone gets out of the lift as fast as they can at the top

Little Free Libraries

This gorgeous piece of woodwork is a copy of the old Moreland railway station created by Bob Cumming

 

Local resident Bob Cumming first introduced Little Free Libraries into the area back in 2014.  Its great if you forget to bring something to read on the train.  These days I and lots of other people stroll to the station to see what’s in this beautiful library.  I try not to take anything home but I usually fail.  Oh well. There are worse things than having too many books.  During Covid lockdown Bob built this beautiful tribute to the old station which has since been replaced by grey concrete.  Thank you so much for this and all the other things you do Bob.

 

 

Bob with an earlier Little Free Library

Take a Book. Share a Book.

 

Creekman mark 2

Creekman has been replaced by a tall cheerful Maori New Zealander in his early thirties who always wears dark glasses.  He says he’s met Creekman and gained permission to use his camping site down by the creek.  (I have a feeling there is a protocol among the rough sleepers over campsites) He’s hoping to get a place when he makes enough money from casual construction but till then he says likes camping out in the fresh air and near the sound of water. He bustles about with great verve.  He comes for a regular wash up in my toilets but he’s very neat and organized about it. When his welfare payments come in he celebrates by having a BBQ..  We had a discussion about Bonds underpants yesterday.  Apparently they chafe.  Sort yourself out Bonds.

The small effects of Climate Change

A day of sheeting rain. Now the trains are not stopping at Essendon Station, because the only way out of the historical station is a subway which is now flooded.  Not sure how the staff manage to get out. This means that if you’ve parked there you have to go to one of the stations on either side and walk 20 minutes.  All over Melbourne and the rest of the East coast of Australia there is flooding due to the excessive amounts of rain and this is just one very small effect.

Work hard at COP27 guys.

The fabric of an ordinary day.

Surprisingly popular redback spider toy

 

Just in case people think my whole railway working life is spent dealing with the mentally troubled, I feel I need to emphasize I spend most of my time talking to little kids and their parents/grandparents.

Every day I hear, “S/he enjoyed the train trip more than the zoo.”

“His/her parents are working so I look after him once/twice week.”

And “Look!”  (as child holds up the plush animal they have bought in the zoo)

It’s important to look shocked if the child has bought a snake or redback spider toy.

Suggesting they wave at the train driver as they come in, is a good way to distract someone who’s very tired or doesn’t want to get into their pram.  Most of the drivers seem to enjoy this too.

Because face facts, little kids are cute, (mostly).

I really enjoy this aspect of my work.

One of my favorite things is to watch a child snuggle into the side of the adult who is reading to them.  (I’m an ex-librarian, what can I say?)  Before Covid I had a box of children’s books in the waiting room just for this but I put them away in case they were a vector of disease.  I’m not sure whether to put them back out yet.  Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

 

In gratitude

 

 

A big shout of thanks to a group of Year 12 (?) students from Bayside High School.  Last week they alerted me to the fact that someone was sitting on the tracks clearly hoping to be hit by a train.  While I let Central know to stop the trains, called the police and ambulance and kept the customers informed, a group of boys went round to the young man and talking gently to him, persuaded him off the tracks by the time the police came.

The students disappeared once the trains were running again.  The young man sat in the office with police for a while until the ambulance came.  He was only 18, had been in rehab and despaired of ever getting off drugs.  I hope those kids helped him find the will to keep fighting.  They certainly inspired me.  Great to have your help, guys!

I swear this is not how it normally is at Zoo station.  Mostly its tots and grandparents.  Its just been a bad couple of weeks.

Trigger warning – Gross stuff

Zoo station has a regular customer T. who shows up and threatens to jump under the trains.  He’s got an ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) and I don’t think he’s suicidal but we have to take him seriously.  Yesterday he upped the ante by covering his face with his own faeces and saying he had a knife. (he didn’t) The Control desk took that seriously and stopped me from leaving the Junction for Zoo Station.  So I got to watch the police deciding what to do with T. on CCTV.  The poor young police man who was holding T.s arm threw up twice at the smell or the idea of a face full of poo.  After a 20 minutes train stoppage it was all over and I was allowed to go down to my station.  Strange when you get there.  You wouldn’t know anything dramatic had happened except for the policeman puke on the sidewalk.  Easily fixed with hot water and disinfectant.

As for T.  he seems to have been content with stopping the trains and having the police and ambulance attend.  The police took him home. (on foot not in their car)

 

Ye Olde Worlde

Ye olde worlde phone

A class of primary school kids have a long wait at Zoo station.  A group of them discover the public telephone.  Press buttons!! A receiver on a cord!!  Public phone calls are free now so 7 of them line up and call their parents on this antique communications device.  Such excitement!

I feel old.

A few days later

Parmesan cheese attack on my local pay phone. It’s rubbed into everything and pressed into the headset. Tried to scrape it off myself but it needs a technician. The station entrance is now redolent with Parmesan. Hope the birds like it.  Odd thing is – it didn’t put off the under 12’s who had a grand time playing with it despite the smell.  Come to think of it – strange smells are part of my remembered the public phone experience too.