Thursday, 13 December 2012

Public transport may be a war zone, but the traffic worse.

Standing at the tram stop in the rain and the wind at 5:05pm this evening, was not the most miserable place I could have been.  Even if I was waiting for about 10 minutes.  You see, during that time, traffic coming from five directions converged and nothing moved.  There was a free tourist shuttle bus that moved about a metre in those ten minutes.

I was finishing my second day of my new project and I am still gaining familiarity with the rhythms of a different part of town.  There are some magnificent eucalypts in the street and their leaves had dropped to the ground in the wind and rain.  As I stepped on them, I was blessed with the heavenly smell of eucalyptus.  For a moment, I believed that I was deep in the bush.  Then I looked up and saw the traffic snarl.  Despite the central location which is extremely well served by public transport, I was advised that there was parking space for me if I wished to drive.  Looking at the gridlock, I wondered why anyone would.

A woman in the tea room yesterday was talking about the fact that she had had to catch public transport to work that day.  I congratulated her.  She looked at me as though I was someone who had escaped from a secure facility and when I added that I am an advocate of public transport I swear I could see her fumbling for the speed dial on her phone.  She looked at me as though I was Satan.  She muttered something under her breath which sounded like, "You're doomed.  Get thee back Satan" but given the Christian values of the organisation was probably something like "it's okay when it works".  I agree.

(I also made new friends by revealing my membership of the myki customer experience panel.  This means I give feedback about the system each week.  I was able to educate a couple of people about the benefits of registering their myki so that any balance on the card is protected if the card is lost or stolen.  Anyway, when you're the new kid on the block, everyone's a potential new friend.  Then you realise who's in what faction and where the power lies a few weeks later and wish you hadn't been so eager.)

Anyway, there I am in the traffic, in the rain and the wind at the tramstop.  I did have an umbrella, so that kept my earlobes dry at least, but in the rain and the wind the rest of me was a lost cause.

As our eagerly anticipated tram turned the corner, it was like the hero appearing on the horizon at sunset to rescue the people.  I swear I heard music and everything.  Symphonic, with trumpets I think, but definitely symphonic.  And the tram arrived and it was packed.  Only the most desperate would clamber aboard and inhale the air, thick with the scent of wet dog and risk being turned into a wet shiskabab by some idiot with a golf umbrella the size of a circus tent.

I sighed.  I was no desperadao.  I lifted my head and squinted towards the horizon (I probably didn't squint.  It wasn't sunny.  If it was sunny I would have had my sunglasses on, thus removing any need to squint.  Plus, I'm opposed to squinting from a cosmetic point of view.  Although, maybe I squinted because I was shielding my eyeballs from the needle-like shards of rain.) Another had appeared. Tram that is, in case I distracted you. In the tradition of Melbourne trams, its only passenger seemed to be the driver and a couple of damp tumbleweeds and the guy up the back who smelt really bad, but not like a wet dog.  Compared to that smell, I would happily buy an atomiser of Eau de Wet Dog and spray it all over. That might be why the tram was empty.

We piled on.  I was made into a wet shiskabab by an idiot with a backpack and a golf umbrella the size of a parachute.  There was so much water I managed to wash my hands and refresh my face. If I had my toothbrush in my handbag I probably would have whipped it out.

I stepped off the tram at Flinders Street station a few minutes later and expected to be home within 20 minutes.  I failed to consider that trains apparently don't like working in the rain. Police operations in some outlying suburb on the other side of town compound the problem.  I found a seat on the platform out of the wind and the rain and tried to concentrate on my book while listening to announcements about delayed trains which seemed to suggest that the Mayans may have been right about the end of the world.

I hope not.  I really want to finish the book I'm reading.

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