Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tram Talkin'

As I stepped onto the Number 59 tram, I felt a little better.

Mr Migraine now a distant memory; the plagiarist suddenly apologised and removed my stolen words when the MEAA stepped in; and the school principal will sit in on future writers' workshops from next week onwards.

This morning I did something I rarely do these days and that is - no, not catch a tram - but catch one during rush hour. More black suits, tink-a-tink ear buds and blank-faced office drones than you could fling a Myki at, and it made me wonder if there'd be any people-watching opportunities in such a dreary crowd.

Ah, but there was something that slipped my mind, only to bounce back in when a bloke, looking unshaven and tired and oily squeezed aboard. My Weirdo-Magnet was on in full force today as he sat alongside me and slurred, "Is it Thursday today, love?"

Thursday. The day of pensions, dole forms, shopping and Centrelink appointments. Maybe that's why I got a seat - the drones were standing so as to not engage in conversation and us nutbags and non-office slaves were free to sit in the seats and...... talk. Or listen, in my case.

In front of the Childrens' Hospital, a laptop-lugging drone accidentally brushed it against a man sipping a takeaway coffee. "Sorry," he said as he passed.

"So you bloody well OUGHTA be!" yelled the sipper. I snuck a look behind me. Both ears had more steel coils in them than a mini slinky and the WuTang Clan jacket and black beanie certainly seemed to suggest that he wasn't a morning person.

A sweet old lady was sitting opposite me and raised her eyebrows in response. I leaned forward and whispered, "He probably needs another seven coffees and a hug, but I don't think I'll be the one to offer them."
"Oh aye," she agreed. "You should have seen some of the bad tempered old blokes I used to serve in the mess hall. A snotty lot they were, but most could be jollied along with a friendly smile."

We chatted a bit further; me asking her how long she'd been here from - where in Scotland?
"Glasgow love, and oh, only for a wee forty eight years," she chuckled. I revealed to her my love of people-watching on trams and she nodded. "Oh aye, I see some lovely young gerrruls (girls) wearing the most pretty and well put-together outfits and I'll often tell them how beautiful they look."

She waved me farewell as we pulled into Bourke Street and went our separate ways - she to the Myer stocktale sale and me the 86 tram to Collingwood.

A man wearing shorts and t-shirt on a still-misty morning ran on. He asked the tram driver for a call out so that he'd know when to get off and plonked himself beside me. Rummaging through his pockets he pulled out a box of matches, a pen and some crumpled pieces of paper. Leaning over on the empty seat opposite, he started writing.

It was hard not to sneak a read. "I'm so sorry Lisa"
"You are my sunshine"
"Your massages are the best"
"I want to make this work"

Every thirty seconds or so, he'd stop, strike up a match and heat up the tip of the pen - "It's an old trick from school," he told me when he caught my curious look - and resumed his tattered love letter.

Ten matches later, it was clear that the pen was dead. "Hey do you have a pen I can borrow?"
"Sorry mate," I said. I did have one, but it was my only one and I was off to interview the convenor of an ESL course for refugees.

"No worries." He looked left. "This is my stop, see ya - and hey, you smell nice," he called, half way down the steps. A university student lifted his nose out of his economics book to stare at me. Yes, I'm a Weirdo Magnet, I wanted to say, or maybe it's ME who's the weirdo? I got out my own notebook and jotted stuff down inside it instead.

On the way back home, two men sat behind me, both reeking of BO, beer and bacon. 'See the bombers fly up, up...' rang one of their phones. "Yeah Marty, but I'm not home right now. I'll be back at 4 o'clock this arvo...... Yeah I'm number 65...... Nah, not that one, it's the blue caravan, right by the toilets." He paused, listening. "Oh yeah, me too. I'm hoping to go to WA one day, reach my goal of seein' all the states."

His mate chimed in, arm swishing as he tapped his shellsuit-covered shoulder. "It's our stop here, Brucey, or you won't be seein' any meat and cheap veg here at Viccy market if you don't get off."

Opposite me sat a young, very elegant woman, dressed all in black and adorned only in silver and turquoise jewellery. She made a call. "I'm off to Dan Murphy's for a shift now, but apparently I've got a job on the Monday..... yeah, handing out flyers for some show or other...... Uh huh, he says if I do this he'll take some photos for my portfolio..... just as long as I'm still able to work on Saturday. It's double time you know."

My stop was next. I pulled the cord and walked to the front. There sat my Glaswegian lady from earlier that morning. "Hello!" we both chimed delightedly.
"How was your morning," she said.
"Good, actually. They do some great work there and I'm dying to get it written. What about you?"
"Oh, nothing special, but my daughter will like the sheets I got for half price. Oh love, what's your name?"
"Kath. And yours?"
"Kath too! Is yours short for Katherine?"
"Yep. How's that for a coincidence!"

I stood on the footpath, smiling like a loon and waving as she pulled away.


Anonymous said...

You were a "drone" once - I thought you might have a little more consideration for them than empty blanket generalisation.

B Smith

River said...

Nice trip Kath. I'm wondering about the runner now, will he and Lisa work it out? And will the nomad make it to WA? Guess we'll never know......
Those buildings look awfully tall.
Glad Mr Migraine is now a memory.

Kath Lockett said...

B Smith - I was a drone but never one who hid behind earphones or avoided a conversation with a fellow traveller. Oh and generalisations are a key part of this blog!

The runner might have a chance - if he showers. Same with the nomad (but at least he can take his van with him along the Nullabor Plain).

Elisabeth said...

Gorgeous post as ever, Kath.

I love traveling on public transport simply for the fun of people watching. I love to imagine the lives of the people with whom I share spaces.

When we go to restaurants en famille, my daughters make me sit with my back to most of the other diners so that I don't stare. It's such fun to watch life pass you by and to imagine and occasionally as you did with Scottish Kath, to meet a kindred spirit.

nuttynoton said...

brilliant, I see all sorts of life omn my daily return train trip to work, it takes all types to make this world sort of function

Cat J B said...

I never manage to hear clearly what people say on public transport, I think that's why I try to lay low, usually with my face in a book. It avoids the what? eh? paaaaardon? that inevitably follows anything anyone says to me.

Baino said...

I deliberately bought a red coat, not so much to stand out but because I never understood why the office crowd have to be so black and grey. You're allowed to sip coffee on the tram? I'm glad you're a weirdo magnet because it gives you such interesting things to write about, even on a plain ol tram ride.