Friday, August 14, 2009

Tram Talk III

Kathy and her family were over from Sydney for the weekend, and we crammed onto the Number 59 tram towards Yum Cha.

"You know, Will's still got the big Ernie toy you have gave him when he was a baby," Kathy said, leaning in so she could be heard above the rolling and clanging of the carriage.
Will nodded. "He's had a few nose jobs though."
"We accidentally left him behind in South America a couple of years ago, but the hotel posted him back and he was none the worse for his travels."

"I'm glad to hear it," I replied, puffing myself up. "I make a point now of always finding new arrivals a big cuddly Sesame Street character because they last forever. Patrick is nearly 13 and Big Bird is still going strong, isn't he Sapph?"

Like Will, she nodded in serious agreement. "And I remember you giving Jack the Cookie Monster when I was only three and he's still looking really good."

A chap sitting next to Kathy suddenly chimed in. "You know, I once bought my nephew Count Von Count from Sesame Street about twenty years ago and he's kept it!"

Smiling politely, I took a closer look at him and it popped out before I could censor myself: "Well I gotta say, mate, you look a bit like The Count yourself, what with the black slicked back hair and pale complexion."

Love Chunks, stricken, shot me a 'You're Going To Get Punched By A Nutter One Of These Days And I Don't Know If I'll Be Bothered To Save You' look.

The Count laughed. "Yeah, I suppose I do - I am Romanian, as it happens!"


At 10:30 in the morning, amongst the 'ka-chinka ka-chinka ka-chinka' tinny beats of the iPODs and the damp musty smell of hot bodies and wet jackets, I saw him walk past the window, bum in danger of being shaved off as our tram zoomed by.

"What the hell is that?" I was thinking it, but accidentally said it out loud, and the three others crammed in the space with me followed my pointed finger.

Perhaps it was Billy Connolly if he'd been born on the other side of the world and was penniless, insane and even braver with his clothing choices. Our Billy had on fluoro green and black zig-zagged lycra leggings paired with white business socks and black slip on shoes with ridiculously pointy toes. So pointy - and unlikely to be filled with anything remotely resembling a human toe - that they were curling upwards like a pervy old elf.

On his upper half he wore a voluminous white caftan studded with pearls around an intricately embroidered chest that was savagely pulled in (no mean feet considering his midriff rivalled that of Santa Claus) at the waist with a cartoonishly large Rodeo belt. Struggling to contain his flyaway long grey hair and beard was a Peruvian knitted hat with side flaps and bobbles at the ends and a Green Nike sports bag completed the ensemble.

He was striding fast towards the hospital and barely noticed our tram dragging at his bag.

The young lawyer guy pulled out his ear buds. "Is he voluntarily admitting himself into psychiatric care or a Clown Doctor about to start duty?"

Bored Shop Girl stopped picking at her nails and cracked a smile. "Knowing my luck, it's my next boyfriend."


I was heading back towards home on the infamous Number 57 tram; the pongier, louder and dodgier one that winds its way through North Melbourne and Footscray and seems to have more than its fair share of shouting couples, sleeping bogans and discarded souvlakis.

Not today though. The carriage had only six of us inside, all quietly obeying the Personal Space Code Of Conduct by sitting in our own double seat and leaving at least a row of empty seats between us and the next person.

We stopped at the corner of Abbotsford Street and Flemington Road. For ages. So long that instead of remaining inside our own cones of silence, we all started looking around at each other, raising an eyebrow or two, to break the personal space provisions and start up a dialogue.

"What is happening?" asked Yoda, finally letting relaxing the death grip he had on his vinyl shopping trolley.

"I don't know," said the Indian nurse, still wearing her ID tags around her neck and folding up her half-completed Search-A-Word from No Idea magazine.

"Well I'm gunna have a smoke while I've got a chance", said Beery-pong guy with a rat tail.

"Me too", said Grey Hoodie student. He looked at Beery Pong. "Do you have a light?"

"Yeah sure," he said, as they stepped off.

Our driver was now on the median strip having a sly smoke himself. For the purpose of us, his puzzled passengers, every now and then he'd gesture impatiently at his surroundings, look at his watch in frustration and glance again at his mobile phone. "My replacement driver isn't here!" he said loudly, so that we could all hear.

The fifty-something lady woke up. "Why have we stopped?" she yawned, eyeing off my Haigh's and Lindt bags.
"I think the other driver is late and half the tram's out having a smoke."
"Oh, that's not a bad idea. I might do that as well."

Only Yoda, No Idea Nurse and I were left. "Does this happen a lot?" I asked.
They both shook their heads no. "So you guys aren't smokers either?" Again, they shook their heads.

The nurse leaned over. "I don't know about him----" she gestured towards Yoda, "----but I'm a chocolate lover."
"Oh, heh heh, yeah well, if we're trapped, heh heh, we might have to eat some," I mumbled before clutching them tighter to my chest and saying more brightly, "Maybe I'll step outside too and get some fresh air."

Too late. Beery Pong, Student and 50-something all stepped in, faces rosy from the cold air and their impromptu bonding session. Our Tram Driver had disappeared, and on rushed a dead ringer for Pat from Eastenders, gasping out, "Sorry Sorry Sorry folks, all my fault. I was stuck in traffic, can you believe it? On another tram too!"


Baino said...

How do you make a simple tram ride into an adventure? I catch the bus occasionally but nobody ever talks. Weird. I also get in the lift at work regularly with an accountant from work who never says anything. I say hello or 'nice day' or something inane and he just looks away. Weird.

drb said...

Maybe you have to look interested, harmless and friendly... like Kath...

River said...

I'm a non talker on trams and buses. I'm the one with ipod firmly plugged in and nose in a book. Even then someone will squish into the seat next to me and start talking. It's awkward for me because I don't hear well in noisy places.

Cat J B said...

I'm like River, and tend to keep to myself on public transport. My hearing loss makes hearing difficult in noisy areas, although I try to sit on the left side of any public transport, in case someone does try to talk..

Plus, it's my only chance to get some reading done: 2 boys = no time to read.

Kath Lockett said...

Baino, keep smiling at the lift guy. In fact, for those that ignore me it ends up becoming a bit of a grim game I become determined to win (or they walk a different route, whatever). One day he's going to be hauled away by the cops and yell out to you as he's dragged by the armpits through the foyer, "But SHE knows me - tell 'em lady!" and *you* can look away.....

Er thanks Dr B - I think. "Harmless" - is that a good or a bad thing in today's society? I think there's a blog in that topic......

River and CatJB, not talking is also fair enough; I'd never bother anyone who is reading or listening to music. But when someone asks me for directions or is obviously struggling with a map or the ticket machine or butts into my own conversation, there's always a chance for a chat. Or just a smile, eh?

And Cat, years ago I caught the Heidelberg train into Spencer Street and it was the absolute best time to read (Sapph off to daycare, me off to work = no time for reading at home). On the way back, I'd be disappointed when the train'd pull in at Heidelberg because it meant I had to put my latest page-turner back into my bag.

Benjamin Solah said...

I know that guy, I'm pretty sure. He's a kind of identity at all the Melbourne gay rights demos I've been to.