Because The Age is focussing quite rightly on the status of the Victorian bushfires, the aftermath, the survival stories, statistics and what recovery plans are being discussed, I thought I'd focus my (occasional) attention on conversations in trams instead of a piece from the paper today.
We're lucky enough to have two routes to choose from: the 57 which wends its merry way through North Melbourne and drops us off anywhere along Racecourse Road, and the 59 Airport West which rumbles up Mount Alexander Road just past the big yellow cheesestick and red toast-rack sculptural installations that are mostly admired by bored and homeless seagulls.
Sometimes, listening to my brother Rob isn't all that comforting. If he's not telling me that it is a given that our car will be broken into, it's this: "I read that the Number 57 Tram Route has been proven to be the most violent in all of Melbourne and leads the way for numbers of assaults, robberies, vandalism and crime." Oh, thanks.
Having that in my now-fearful mind, I climbed aboard one yesterday from Elizabeth Street. Would I be assaulted for wearing no-name sneakers and a Target jacket? Would a drugged-out bogan try to yank off my shoulder bag only to find that inside it held yesterday's MX newspaper and some viola strings? Would he then want to rape and pillage me in revenge?
Luck was on my side, even if my nasal passages weren't, because the carriage stank. It reeked of week-old acrid armpits, ancient yiros wrappers and slippery-thonged sweaty feet. No crime was evident, except for my own. My ticket - used an hour earlier - couldn't be found, so I ignored the validating box and sat down, blushing awkwardly.
Behind me, a young couple sat down, she cursing like a fish wife. "Phark me, that guy was a pharkin' stunt of a tool, wasn't he? As if I dunnt have anuff stuff to worry about without his pharkin attitude...." Boyfriend nodded quietly, clearly used to her tirades and offered her some of his chips. This placated her somewhat as she then changed the subject, "Ya know how I told you that I can't handle fizzy drink, well last night, I'd had too many cruisers and pharkin' forgot and then drank some coke and didn't THAT set me guts right off!"
Right. Impressed, Boyfriend leaned over to give her a particularly greasy chip kiss. Either to shut her up or console her.
On the 59 another day, Sapphire and I stepped aboard to find it pretty full. Summer bargain shoppers, Aussie Open attendees, SMSing teenagers and late-morning workers, so we had to cram next to a rather large old couple.
"It's a bit of tight squeeze, sitting next to a fat bloke like me, isn't it love?" the man said, grinning down at Sapphire.
"Yes," she agreed, before I could shoosh her.
"Nothing like the honesty of kids," he laughed.
We got talking. They were from Essendon (why do locals not use the 'n' to pronounce it? Instead they say 'Esserden'), off to see some tennis as a break from attending dog shows as judges.
"We breed pugs, love."
"Oh? How many do you have?"
"Twelve right now, all ribbon winners. Gotta tell you though----" he leaned over to get closer so that he could share a secret.
"Those dogs have a better life than you do, darl. Baby lambs' wool beds, soft mattresses, air-conditioned kennels. You'd be the one standing outside in the sun, fannin' yourself with an old paper, feelin' envious."