My ride to work the other day was an interesting anthropological study of the public transport psyche. The first thing I saw as I entered the station were the non-smoking signs. Black text, white background, image of a cigarette with a red circle around it and a line crossing through middle, clearly indicating that smoking is not permitted in this particular place. Oblivious civilians surrounded the signage sucking down copious quantities of carcinogens desperately trying to get that tobacco hit before they were forced to undergo temporary cold turkey on the train. Ignorant, obtuse or just plain rude, I couldn’t decide. Needless to say I held my breath as I passed through the deathly miasma.
The promenade itself was alive with grumbles, mumbles and chatter. A gentleman in a charcoal suit swore obscenities as he crashed through a huddle of nuns. Apparently he was very big, very important and very late for something. School students bullied and berated each other in jest, with language that would make a dock worker blush, whilst the girls they were clearly trying to impress giggled their encouragement of the lad’s shenanigans. A young woman broke up with her partner via mobile phone in a raucous rampage of vitriolic abuse and I briefly wondered what might have attracted him to her in the first place. The indigenous beggar thanked me for my donation as his dog spit-polished my shoes with its long, lapping tongue. I reflected briefly that the person in the lowest socioeconomic position seemed to be the happiest person of them all.
Approaching the stairs leading down to track twelve I noticed the notice notifying me to keep left. What an excellent idea! If we all stayed on our own side of the stairwell then there would be plenty of room for those to enter and alight the platform. As my already broken toe was squashed by a third gruff fool grunting at me to ‘get over’, I came to the conclusion that literacy was not a required skill set for the State Rail passenger.
Entering the train was an entirely new challenge. University students with burdensome backpacks unintentionally assaulted their neighbours every time they turned around. Businessmen in nondescript suits sat on their widening backsides as the elderly women left standing shot looks that could kill. Mothers used babies in prams as pink fleshy battering rams in order to secure their spot amongst the sardines, and thousands of school kids remained engrossed in their smartphones.
Too me it was a baffling brouhaha. Another train was due in two minutes anyway.
In a perverse contradiction of the manners I was taught as a child, the young people sat as the old people stood. Finally the doors closed and the carriage lurched forward. I caught an old man by the arm as he stumbled backwards.
“Thanks son, things were certainly different in my day.”
“Mine too old mate.”
Five stops later and it was time to disembark. As I left the graffiti covered transportation I was pushed twice, kicked once and almost tripped up the stairs by impatient commuters. The time was 8:45am.
Take my advice people, there is no job on the planet worthy of this much stress and aggravation. If your boss gives you a hard time for arriving five minutes late it’s probably because he or she are not happy in themselves. Perhaps she missed the shoe sale over the weekend. Perhaps he didn’t get lucky on Saturday night. Either way it’s a simple matter of smiling, apologizing and making the time up over lunch or at the end of the day.