I had to go to a rehearsal today, just on the other side of the city. As is my custom, I took public transport. The train arrived just as I was coming down the pedestrian overpass and I ran the last few metres - thankful that the myki reader worked swiftly. Just as I touched on I heard the telltale buzz that says the doors have been locked. I went towards the train anyway. The doors were released and I was able to board the train. I gave a wave to the driver in appreciation. It's not often a train waits and I really appreciated it.
From the city I needed to catch a tram. As I approached the tram stop a man wearing nothing but tattoos and a low slung backpack on his torso cut across my path, yelling at someone for not listening to him. He continued his tirade to anyone and no one cutting a furious path through the Saturday afternoon crowd. I lost sight of him and then he was back on the tram stop. He jumped onto the tracks and kicked one of the little sparrows high into the air and into traffic. I was shocked at his random cruelty. The people at the stop took a collective breath and withdrew into themselves. It seemed best not to be noticed by this man.
My tram arrived and I was disappointed to see him board. He roamed around the train screaming about "real heroin dealers", his $700 a day habit and the fact he had wanted to attend his parents' funeral. He was certain that if he'd been from overseas he would have been allowed to attend, but now he couldn't go because "they" had taken all his money.
There was no pause.
The security guards at an unspecified shop were his next target. They were gutless and "won't fight you one on one", but that's okay because "I'll find out where he lives and blow his house up". He then sat down in front of one of the doors and proceeded to investigate a wound on his leg. He exclaimed about the fact that he seemed to be living on top of a mosquito nest and counted the bites on his legs.
His anger never subsided. His invective became more ferocious. People boarding the tram quickly moved to another door. Grandmothers clutched toddlers to them, old men looked on in disgust and puzzlement and the rest of us desperately avoided eye contact.
At one stop a man who looked like he might have similar problems boarded and came face to face with the shirtless man. They both looked at each other, said nothing and retreated to opposite ends of the tram. There was another collective breath.
I was very pleased when my the tram arrived at my stop. I was still thinking about that poor, innocent little sparrow which had been brutalised and hopped that was the end of his work today. With the lack of conductors on Melbourne trams there is no one to deal with people like this and it makes the trip unpleasant for everyone else. On top of that, he didn't appear to have a ticket.