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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People are perplexing. One of my regulars drives a motorized wheelchair. He’s a pleasant looking young chap perhaps in his early thirties, neatly dress. He probably has cerebral palsy because he stammers badly and when he gets off his chair, he walks crookedly and with difficulty.
We’ve had some nice chats since he moved into the area. I thought he was down here in respite care while his parents were away on a cruise, but he seemed to be here for ages and ages – always longing to get home to his own place. Then one day he was very excited because he was off to his hearing. That was when he revealed that he was actually living in the area on a court order. An AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) had been issued against him because he’d been stalking a local girl. Maybe he only told me because he was certain the AVO would be lifted. But it wasn’t and still hasn’t been after 6 months.
I realized that I had assumed that a guy in a wheelchair was harmless. So I’m confronted with my own “ableism”. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous or criminal as the next person.
Also as a good paid up member of the feminist sisterhood, should I be chatting pleasantly to someone who has stalked another woman? Isn’t that just normalizing such behaviour? And yet this is a situation that I know nothing about. Who am I to judge without knowing all the facts? Is it indulging in mob behavior to suddenly start snubbing him?
He has told me he’s sorry for the whole situation and that he just wants to go home. I don’t know. I guess in the end you just treat people as you would like them to treat you. I have a very strong belief in hating the sin, not the sinner. Or maybe I just don’t like confrontation.
One of my regulars had clearly come off her bicycle. She was covered in dust and had a huge spike shaped red gash on her arm. With the train 2 minutes away she didn’t want me to do anything for her, but I insisted on getting her some damp paper towel to clean the still bleeding gash. Then as the train rolled in a complete stranger stepped up and offered the lady one of those big band-aids in plastic for her gash!
Thank you, stranger. Another person who understands if you think someone should help someone, perhaps you’d better be the one to do it.
I’m a firm believer in taking responsibility for making the world a better place through small daily acts. I’m getting more and more involved in Climate Change activism through a group called Climate for Change. http://www.climateforchange.org.au/ They encourage people to have everyday conversations about Climate Change concerns in order to encourage a ground swell of support for government action. The more of us pestering companies and M.P.’s the better. So now at when someone at the station says we’re having strange weather, I take my opportunity and say “This is what 1% climate change looks like.” I get some strange looks but also a lot of nods. Scarey to think what 2% will look like.
Those who know me, know I will read anything. Even the back of plastic water bottles found while tidying up the platform. This particular one assured me it didn’t just look good, it “had ancient wisdom” as well. That made me stop and take a closer look.
Apparently this is because it is “infused with native flower essences”. “Handpicked native flower essences” no less. Apparently Northern Australian indigenous people are involved in this process. I couldn’t resist taking a quick sniff of the remaining water, but I can’t smell anything floral. Perhaps that is because it is “refreshingly non-flavoured”
But I can smell something.
Ahh! The scent of male bovine manure.
P.S. School’s back and I had my first train surfers yesterday. They even wore balaclavas as they rode on the rear coupling. Guess the summer holidays are over.
D is studiedly bogan. He shakes my hand with an iron grip, tells me he’s from Gippsland and that in his depressed country town every third street has an ice-lab. Shades of “Winters Bone”. He describes getting drunk and driving down the main drag yelling at the shards (ice addicts.) Then he tells me he’s joined the local medieval re-enactment society and how much he likes fighting with the rattan canes. (thus exploding the whole bogan persona in my eyes.)
A pleasant young man. I’m not sure why he’s in Melbourne, but I haven’t pressed him in case he’s here with the Mental Health Service or the Juvenile Detention Service both of which have flats in the area. He may just be here to go to University. What I’d really like to know is his relationship with the two different young women he took the zoo the week before Christmas both of whom he seemed to be on arms-around-waist relations with. (Watch out for your station staff. They notice things.)
Today he looks a bit rough. Apparently, he drank too much on New Year’s Eve.
“I don’t remember much but my mates say I was wandering round Elizabeth Street in a man-kini singing and playing the guitar.
“Did people tuck money into your man-kini?” I ask.
“No,” he says, “But I do remember getting smacked on the arse a lot.”
The 3.04 stopped and the driver got out and took a walk down the platform.“I think there’s kids riding on the rear coupling,” he said as he went past. Sure enough as he got further down the train, three youths jumped off the end of the train. Giggling they leapt off the furthest end of the platform and ran into the bushes beyond.
The driver came back and the train left.
A couple of minutes later I heard yelling from the nearby tram stop. Two youths were hanging onto the back of a departing tram while a third ran alongside trying to get onto the running board. How on earth did these guys survive? But they must have because no ambulance came. They also showed an impressive turn of speed in running that kilometer between the far end of our platform and the tram stop.
I’ve started checking the back of all the trains more assiduously because kids ride on the couplings regularly (a couple of times a month I see them) I recently caught one trying to get on a coupling on the opposite platform and was able to drive him off with a shout and a glare. (he was clearly too young to ignore me, about 15)
Once a group of them inside the rear carriage saw me checking and started waving and blowing me kisses. Hard not to be softened by their cheekiness.
I understand the appeal of riding on the rear coupling, I really do, but if you fall off it’s a long way down and fast and the trains have to stop while some poor para-medic scrapes you off the tracks.