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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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.
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.
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.”