The Occupation

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It’s after midnight on a Sunday night and I’m standing on a freezing station platform wishing the last train would hurry up and come in.  I’ve been rostered on to help with the Occupation, but the thrill of earning overtime has well and truly worn off.

This Occupation has nothing to do with the German Army or the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Instead the tracks are being “occupied” by construction workers, beginning the long slow process of lowering the train track under a road ahead so that the level crossings can be removed.  I suspect in this instance the term “occupation” may spring from the tribalism of the railway workers of yesteryear who regarded construction workers as “outsiders” in their territory.

My part in this great task is to make sure everyone gets off the train and onto the buses that service the stations further up the line.  I even get to make announcements through a microphone. As the evening chills and the trains get further and further apart my work mate and I take to walking 7 minutes round to the station house to get warm and eat too many biscuits and 7 minutes back before the train comes in.  This trek really helps pass the time.  A suburban railway station on a Sunday night is NOT an exciting place.

We are abused by a South American lady who has missed her train by several minutes because there are no signs up.  (There are signs everywhere but somehow it’s never enough) But I am also given a little KitKat by a young woman in a veil after I help her locate the husband she’s mislaid on the train.  Swings and Roundabouts.

Between customers we chat to the train/drivers, the casual customer service staff and the flagman whose job it is to stand by the tracks holding a red lantern to prevent the trains accidentally going further and hitting the workers. I had a friend who was a flagman and used to wax lyrical about how romantic and magical the still early morning hours were.

The clear starry night sky with its half lemon of a moon is indeed magical but even the romance of the midnight hour cannot disguise the ugliness of this suburban station with its asphalt platforms, its rubbish strewn gravel car park, and the barbed wire fence hung with shreds of plastic.  Twice we see rats scurrying around on the tracks.

At long last, its 12.45. The last train has gone and it’s time to pack up the buses and signs. But the flag man is still there standing by the tracks with his lantern.  This is because of “ghost trains” – unscheduled empty trains that are moved about the system in order to be in place for Monday morning’s rush hour.  He will be there standing by there until the workers finish at 3 am.

Captain America

Captain America

Saw a little girl (4) in a Captain America costume and had a light bulb moment. There is nothing in the name that disqualifies Captain America from being female. May seem obvious but it certainly reminded me to think outside the box.

Good on the little girl’s mum.

P.S. She didn’t look anything like this

 

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Captain America by Joe Quinones

A charming thing and a disturbing thing

On Friday one of the zoo volunteers told me she’d been working in animal enrichment all day – making popcorn for the elephants. Apparently they’re not allowed any sugar or fat on their popcorn. She left on the train before I could find out more – leaving me with a vision of elephants frolicking through vats and vats of popcorn.
That was the charming thing.
Then I listened with great pleasure to the HooDoo Guru’s tuning up for their evening concert inside the zoo. I remember going to see them when I was in my mid-twenties. They still sounded good. Then someone told me that their current tour is being sponsored by APIA – Australian Pensioners Insurance.

OMG!!! I’m 54!!! How did that happen????
Disturbing!

Good news for M and C

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I haven’t seen my homeless friends M and C for a while but, fingers crossed, this is a good thing. A couple of months ago they dropped by the station and told me that after five years on the housing list living in boarding houses and sleeping rough, they’d been placed in social housing. They both hope they’ll be able to get some of their children back. Terrific news! A happy ending at last!
M said – Now I’ll be able to make a cup of tea in my underpants and never have to beg again!
Then he gave me a cheeky grin and asked me for 20 dollars so that they could spend their last homeless night in a motel. I passed the money over feeling foolish but as the weeks roll by and I no longer see them begging at their old haunts, I feel more and more that it was money well spent. So relieved.
Merry Christmas everybody! And may all your homes be warm and cozy or cool and comfy depending on your hemisphere!

Train Surfers – WTF

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A new friend He was found in a railway station car park.

 

 

 

School’s out – at least for the final year students and it sure shows.

This week, the train driver and I suspected there were kids riding on the rear coupling of the 12.04.  A sticking out leg is kind of a giveaway.  When a driver looks in his rear view mirror the train behind should look smooooth.

“For those riding on the back I’m calling the police,” the driver said over the intercom.

I don’t know how they heard him, but the kids jumped off the back.  Then rear carriage doors opened and two more kids popped out followed by another and another and another.  In the end there must have been a dozen on the platform.

I was thinking about locking myself in the office.  12 teenagers is too much even for a big bold station host like me.  But they all jumped over the fence at the other end.  I could hear them laughing as they ran away through the park.  No doubt it was all about the narrow escape they’d had.  I suspect their interpretation of a narrow escape is different from mine.

More Train Surfers

O.K.  It’s time for some relief from things we cannot change (so that we can marshal our strength for the things we can.)

Time for another Station Story

My gloomy morning was vastly improved by scaring teenage train-surfers.

Here’s how it went.

The driver of the 11.37 down train got off and walked down the train to check the back for the kids he saw hopping on the back.  There were no kids there anymore, but they had graffitied all over the window of the rear driver’s cabin which meant the train was no longer safe to drive back to the city once it had reached its destination.  This is a major reason why your trains are cancelled, people!

I’ve started checking the back of all the trains now and with the next down train I hit pay dirt.

As I was checking the rear coupling some boys got off the final carriage. The head of one of them appeared around the end of the train.  He saw me on the opposite platform and waved sheepishly.  Suspicious.  There were four of them all around 13/14, clearly too young to know how to look innocent.

The train sat and sat in the platform.  3 minutes, 5 minutes.

I thought there must be some serious emergency so I went over to the opposite platform to see if the driver needed help.

The boys were milling round on platform 2.

“Why isn’t the train moving, Miss?”  (I love how cheeky boys manage to make Miss sound like an insult).

The cheekiest said “Can I have your beanie, Miss?”

“I’m just going to check what’s wrong,” I told them though I had already had an idea what was going on.

On seeing me the driver came down the platform.  “I’ve called the cops” he said, loud enough for the boys to hear.  “We’re just waiting for them to come.””

Wow the speed with which those boys took off! Impressive.  They ran and ran and didn’t stop running till they reached the other side of the second oval. No more riding down the line graffiting the back of trains for them that day.

I should have done a high five with the driver.  Result!