Friday, November 07, 2008

Commuting blues

I wrote this a month or so ago but didn't post it here:

It was Monday, today, and Mondays seem to be the second worse day to catch a train to work. Friday’s are the worst… too many GenX and GenY with headaches from Thursday-night pub-nights. Mondays, though, well, everyone seems depressed or cranky.

I have a 40 minute train journey from Wahroonga to Town Hall every day and if I don’t have some software to learn, or a project to do then I leave my laptop in the backpack and snooze on the way in. My iRiver has three playlists… walking, quiet and POD casts.
Today two things happened that got my goat. The first I am a little ashamed of, but the second I giggled to myself.

I set my iRiver to snooze mode, aka quiet, and got comfortable. In Paradisium from Faure’s requiem was first up. Sounds like angels singing, when in fact it’s the missus and 120 others in her choir. Anyway, I am usually subconsciously aware of what’s happening around me, except for last week when suddenly there were officials carrying a collapsed passenger from a few seats up from mine. I hadn’t realised that A. Someone had collapsed, B that someone had reported a sick passenger, C that the train had stopped, D that rail staff had come on-board and helped the poor lady out. But that was last week.

Today, however, I was vaguely aware of a person sitting down next to me. My station is one of the first so it fills up as we get closer to the city. What felt less than a minute later she elbows me lightly in the ribs and says “Your aftershave is making me gag!” or words to the effect. I was brought round to bright consciousness pretty quickly but not quite sure what I had just heard.
I looked at her to make sure she was talking to me; she sure was; she had this angry face on her.
Now, I don’t use too much aftershave, and had used the regular amount this morning, on account, like most husbands, SWMBO buys the most expensive aftershave thinking it’s better than the cheapest. The way things work I can’t argue as I’ve never had the chance to buy cheap aftershave since I was single and my fiancĂ©e threw it out. So, I hardly use any to make it last longer, that way, by the time to bottle is empty it's cheap.Think about it.

She looked at me in fury. I looked back at her in puzzlement. I was aware of people looking up to see the commotion. She then mixed in a questioning look with her fury look which clearly asked “What are you going to do about it?”. Knowing I must have looked much like a stunned mullet I dropped a an indignation look into the equation. There was a lot of looking.

I know people have allergies and I can appreciate the discomfort, even SWMBO is not allowed to wear perfume when in her choir so I am a little on the defensive side. But I am on a public train, sitting by myself, with scant amount of aftershave on anyway and here she is embarrassing me in front of the other passengers.
Bad move.
In my clearest… just woken up voice… I reply “I’m sorry about that, but your rudeness is equally gagging!”
The expression on her face was worth a million quid, and by the sounds of gwarfs behind us others thought so too. Instead of retreating, and these sorts of people don’t retreat easily, she started on me about how inconsiderate I was wearing perfume and how it’s affecting her and how evil I am etc all of which she managed to impart with very few words and so quickly that I can’t, now, remember exactly what she said, but I’d had enough. I looked her up and down and said “You seem as ugly on the inside as you do on the outside and while you don’t like my perfume at least I can wash it off” and with that I put my earphones back in and went back into my snooze zone.
The chuckles from behind, and the seemingly fruitless argument made her sit there for a few moments huffing and puffing before finally getting up and leaving.

I could have been nice to her, but it was Monday morning.

The second incident happened on the way home. Normally I work late on Mondays, but not today. I caught the peak-hour train home, shuffled downstairs and found a seat. Converse to mornings, afternoon peak trains are full straight away and empty out after they leave the city so getting a seat can be bit of a blood sport; especially from middle aged ladies with bags and elbows and heads down like footballers in a scrum.
Well, this afternoon the two-seater I am gunning for has a twenty something guy sitting in the middle with a bag next to him. He clearly has a “not sharing” attitude. There’s no choice for me but to plonk down beside him. I noticed first off that he was faking sleep. No one can have their legs that far apart, sit in the middle of the seat and balance upright at the same time. So, like I said, I slid in beside him, so little room that he’s pushed over a little.

The inside of a typical Sydney Tangara Carriage

He grunts.
I huff.
I find myself sitting with hunched-shoulders and leaning forward because he won’t give me my half of the seat. I’m squeezed in. I not a big guy, and nor is he… there’s plenty of room. I look at him with my best “you’ve got to be kidding me” look but he’s “sound asleep”. I try reading the paper, but it’s no good, I am not comfortable and he’s not budging. It’s not half obvious he’s pushing back against me to keep his extra space.
I am too bothered about more important things than this drongo so I pick out the only other seat in sight and move before the next station. Wynyard station is probably the busiest city station in Sydney, and if you’re not seated by then, then you stand much of the way home.
We stopped, a huge woman gets on and ploughs into his space. She’d almost bolted down the stairs to grab what was one of the only remaining seats. She had no intention of standing and no intention of worrying about this squirt taking up more than his share of real estate. The poor little fellow almost popped out of the seat! His bag was crushed against the wall, and his legs slammed together, he’s squeezed upright and wide awake.
I caught his eye and I smiled that self satisfactory smile that says “sucks be to you, loser!” and chuckled to myself. Goodness it was funny.

Twenty years weekend ended in bull

Twenty Years! If you were anti-socially inclined they would give you that with hard labour thrown in.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have been married for twenty years so we celebrated what could have been my release date by heading out of town to a lovely wilderness resort on the New South Wales mid-coast. SWMBO is one for luxury, so the eco-wilderness-green-lodge-in-a-rain forest had to be 5 stars. It also has to be out-of-the-way-with-no-major-road-within-cooee type of eco-wilderness resort, which, oddly, most of these places tend to be. When SWMBO wants to unwind, seriously unwind, then it has to be in a spa bath with mother nature at beck and call, along with wait staff.

It can’t be done with tents and cold water.

So anyway, apart from a 4 hour drive, 30kms of which is dirt road euphemistically called “unsealed”, cattle grids, flooded creeks, tacked onto the end of a long work-week it wasn’t that hard to find thanks to “Sally” our on-board English lass who digitally directs us; “In 620 metres take turn left”. SWMBO wants to ditch Sally for Bob, the American Mid-west guide, but he doesn’t do it for me like Sally does.

The resort was fine; more about the place another time, but the oddest moment came as we were leaving.

We checked out, angled ourselves into our Hyundai as only trekked out people can, and gravel-ly rolled down the “road” and into a herd of cattle.

We could have been cast in Jurassic Park. The first few beasties, many as big as they get which, for you and me, are the largest pieces of meat walking the Earth, didn’t mind our presence. It was quite apparent cattle only distinguish road from grass by the level of food. Road-sense these big boys do not have. Or probably need for that matter.
It was slow going, the cattle moving out of the way one at a time, clearing as we motored along in first gear, eyes wide with terror.

As if in slow motion, which is correct for these one-tonne pieces of dinner, the last of the animals parted to reveal the end boss. No kidding, the last bovine stood there in our way, across-the-road. Like across-the-road. Nose in one gutter and tail in the other. Taller than our car, wider than our car, and probably heavier than our car (if SWMBO had got out and run off).

We waited.

He waited.

We waited some more

He ignored us.

So I blew the horn.

He ignored with gusto.

We inched forward, thinking he’d be frightened by a hunk of slow-moving metal and two worried faces. Nope, he just looked at us with confidence. We’re on his turf, and he’s busy right now doing nothing in particular. I thought of things I might do such as scaring him, but even if it worked it had several downturns.
First up, he might charge at us; hurting himself and trashing our car. The prospect of contending with an angry farmer also crossed my mind. There was also the danger of him bolting off the road into the ditch on either side. He could do himself an injury falling down there. It also meant we couldn’t drive around him because the ditch was too deep. Then there was the prospect of me shooing one tonne of muscle while SWMBO is in the car laughing at me running across the paddock chased by a bull.

Oh, my kingdom for a rocket launcher and mega-health.

I needed this guy to move but each time I moved toward him he picked up that stance bulls take. Forelegs askew, head down and puffed up chest. Sort of like a friend of mine on his way to a prawn platter and beer tray. I backed up a little then noticed we’d been closed in by half a dozen more beef with heads turned our way. So many heads staring at us! The silent mammoths had surrounded us! Trapped!

We took the only course of action we could; locked the doors and wound up the windows. And waited. We had left Jurassic Park and joined Escape from New York.

It must have only been ten minutes, but it seemed longer. Eventually, with our air running low, the End Boss moved from the culvert and made way to greener pastures. We sneaked past ever so gently and took off as best a Hyundai can take off on a wet, soggy, muddy road.
Back to the city where it’s safe from murderous bovines.