An odd incident this week. A kid on a bike – maybe about 13/14 – came riding past the station and slowed to a stop.
“Hello! Do you recognize me?” he called out. “You used to yell at me and my friends for riding on the back of trains.”
I’ve been doing this job for 14 years now and I expected abuse at this point.
“I was only trying to save your lives,” I said defensively.“ It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”
“Yeah! We’ve stopped doing it now,” he said
And he turned round and cycled back up the hill.
It was only after the station door swung shut behind me that I realized I’d forgotten to bring either of my sets of keys out with me. Locked out! Not a good start to the day. Since it was still early I thought I’d got back to the Junction and get another set. It’s a lengthy process – ½ an hour out of a 6 hour shift – because the trains don’t meet up. Back at the Junction I couldn’t find the master keys and no one there knew where they were kept, so I looked through the key register and signed out something that was supposed to be the correct key.
Of course when I got back to my station it didn’t open the door. Damn!
I didn’t like to spend another ½ hour getting another set of keys so I thought I’d just hang around for an hour until the cleaner came and let me back in with his key. So I stood around helping people with tickets and directions for the next two trains getting more and more thirsty and in need of a pee, until… Eureka moment! It occurred to me that all trains drivers have the key to stations so that they can pop in and use the toilets if desperate. It’s not really o.k. to do anything that might delay a train, but I thought if I was quick…
The driver of the 1.04 was a kindly woman who was happy to help me re-open my station door and I rushed in and shoved both keys in my pockets before indulging in visit to the toilet, a nice drink of water and a spot of lunch. Adventure over with no one much noticing my inadequacies.
It was a rude shock therefore, when about an hour later Control rang. Apparently at the other end of the 1.04 train, an intoxicated man had been having an argument with his female companion who he’d proceeded to shove out onto the platform at my station. He’d been arrested at Flinders Street later.
That it should be that train of all trains!
The Control man had been viewing the CCTV footage and seen me rushing about. “Had I seen anything of the fight further up the train? Had I been scared by it?” he inquired sympathetically.
He laughed when I told him that I’d been locked out so I assumed I wasn’t in any trouble, but I felt very sorry that I was too involved in my own small drama to help a victim of domestic violence. I fear this may be the way it often happens. I can only hope since she wasn’t there when I’d come out of the station she hadn’t been too badly hurt.
Yesterday a young man I usually avoid caught me talking to one of my regulars. He’s an unusual, dare I say, unwell young person.
“Did you know that the boomgates here use Westinghouse Bells?” He broke in breathlessly. My regular slid off with a look of alarm while he deluged me with all kinds of technical detail about boomgate bells which, to be fair, I really didn’t know and don’t mind knowing. Apparently they are not all the same and his superior hearing can pick out the ones that sound like church bells or much bassier like a boom box which indicates apparently modern electrical bells. Of course now I think of it this all could be his imagination but I must make a note to listen more closely to boom gates.
On the whole I thought him improved since the last time I met him. He looked cleaner. And last time he made lots of creepy enquiries about what I sounded like when I pee. Not good.
So does this count as a Christmas Post? Hmm!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my lovely subscribers. May you all have someone to listen to you this Christmas. And Thank you!
Spring is sprung and youths are riding on the back of trains again. Two of them went by on the 1.04 on Thursday, bandannas round their faces and long blond hair flapping in the wind. “I’m going to report you,” I yelled after them. You go inside and report them on the two way radio and by the time they reach the next station the driver knows they are there. Very satisfactorily, these two jumped off and ran away at the next station. These days I report them as coupling riders. If I report them as train surfers that really panics the control desk. Train surfers are those who ride on the top of trains and since they are up there with a whole lot of high voltage electrical wiring they are really dicing with death.
It was a pleasure to stand outside in the warm spring sunshine watching the birds squabble over the sprinkling of chips left by a team of teenage footballers. A man with a stylish haircut, wearing leather trousers and gold and black cats eye glasses (you’ll have to look them up- I couldn’t download a picture) jumped off the train, handed me a lost backpack containing a Nepalese passport and jumped back on.
Another man was singing along loudly and reasonably tunefully to some folksy album on his iphone. Some thuggy looking 14 year olds arrived, full of attitude, carrying blaring loud rap music. For a while the two kinds of music warred in the waiting room. The man’s singing was completely out of step with the kid’s music, but he was in his own little world and completely unaware of them. Interestingly enough he won the war and they turned their music down. Their leader, a solid looking girl with red dyed hair, shot me an anxious look. She clearly thought he was mad. I guess madness trumps attitude.
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Feeling rather small and ashamed today. A member of the track cleaning crew dropped by and told me that while the trains were stopped for maintenance last night they’d taken the opportunity to clear up the couches in the cutting. Ever since I saw those young men carrying couches up the cutting back in May I’ve been agitating to have them cleared away. That’s because I was assuming this was a cubby house for young thugs or what we in the railways call a “shag garden”. So I was horrified to discover that when the track crew went down there at 1.00 in the morning they found instead people sleeping in a homeless camp. Now I hate myself for being just another authority figure persecuting the homeless who have enough problems as it is.
The Track Man told me that the homeless would probably come back. It’s a really good place to camp if you want to be out of the wind and away from casual intruders. I promised him I would never report those couches again at which he looked very relieved. They hate doing that kind of job and seem to have as much pity for the homeless as I do. They’ve obviously seen way too much of it as has everyone in this time of rocketing rents.
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On a freezing day of sheeting rain, a dark-haired young woman without shoes gets off the 1.44 train. Not only are her feet bare but so are her legs. I can’t tell if she’s wearing anything on her bottom half. The shirt and hoodies she’s wearing covers her down to the top of her thighs.
I greet her thinking she might be one of the clients of the youth mental health service nearby and in need of directions.
“I’m hungry,” is all she says.
Figuring she needs it more than me, I give her the chocolate bar I have squirrelled away for my afternoon treat. I can think of a number of reasons why a young woman would be out in cold rain with no pants or shoes on and none of them are good. She eats it and proceeds to wander around outside the station. After a while she comes back with a cigarette butt she’s picked up outside and asks me for a light which I can’t give her. She tells me she is off to another youth health service in the city at which I am much relieved. Hopefully she can get the care she clearly needs there.
If she gets there ok.
The train is late and for a long time she stands on the edge of the platform staring grimly into the pit. She’s calm – not agitated. Stoned? In shock? The Boss is visiting and she starts to get worried. So do a number of the other people on the platform, many of whom have children in tow. Everyone is watching as the Boss approaches the girl asks her to come away from the edge and is told, “Don’t treat me like a Fucking Child!”
At this the Boss goes inside and rings Control. The driver is told to come in slow and on the lookout.
As the train creeps in the young woman leaves the coping and walks away down the platform. I shadow her.
But the train stops without incident and she gets calmly into it. To go where? I wish I knew.
Later that day I ring the place she said she was going, but I only get answering machines. I hope she’s alright. I wish there was more I could have done.