Saturday, May 29, 2010

Waiting For The Train - Heartfelt Memories of a Night Best-Forgotten

I don't mind taking the train. Despite the seemingly toxic mix of sky-rocketing ticket prices and floor-scraping service provided in hateful spoonfuls by our local rail operator, I still enjoy the train-going experience. It is on this subject that I find myself writing this blog entry. I know, I can't wait to read it either.

Arriving at a fashionably late 9.42pm for my 9.30pm train, I knew that I would be looking at an almost hour-long wait for the next Westbound train to screech into the platform to mark its 10.30pm arrival. Waiting at the station has become a common occurence. But as an avid people watcher, the wait usually goes by quickly for me. Sadly, the same cannot be said of my fellow inmates trapped in this public transit prison, as they edge away from the people-watching foreigner, looking at their watches nervously as they pull their belongings tight to their painfully uncomfortable steel seats.

As I was walking up to the Ticket Office to confirm that I would be serving a 45-minute custodial sentence in this railside Alcatraz, I noticed that a group of teenage girls were squawking at the tired old Ticket Attendant. They were, it seems, upset over the cost of a ticket. While I completed agreed with their central complaint, I felt sorry for the elderly gentleman behind the plexi-glass who, presumably, was not the multi-millionaire benefactor of this railway extortion operation, certainly not if his grey apron and matching nametag was anything to go on. No. "Station worker Francis" was just a victim.

As these young girls "like"d and "omg"'d their way through their confused complaints: "Like, how much does it cost you to print a ticket?!!" etc,  I caught the eye of another woman in the station. She gave me an eye-roll and then mouthed something like "stupid teenagers." My lip-reading is awful, though. She could have been trying to say "stooping meat-haters" - in any case, my reaction was to smile and then, sensing the anger in her mouthed words, nod sternly in agreement with her cloaked pronouncement.

It was my turn next to speak with Francis.

"What?" - the first word spoken in my relationship with Francis was a crossed one.

I could tell that we were going to be close friends.

"Hey", I began.."Could you tell me when the next train is arriving?

"Ten Thirty," said my new best friend, without looking at me.

I would have used to the wait to get to know Francis a little better. But then, I feared any further questioning would have been instantly followed by my swift and violent death via the sharp end of a pen attached with thin, knotted string to Francis' workspace.

10:10pm: By this point there was only twenty minutes left until the train arrived, so I went to take a seat in the steel chair-like contraptions that stalked the perimeter of the station. Using my peripheral vision while playing around with my phone, I could tell the man sitting beside me was glancing at me periodically.

I looked up and my red-haired trench-coat wearing chair neighbour used this opportunity to ask me the following question : "Would you like to read my newspaper when I'm done with it?"  An intriguing question, since, it seemed to suggest that he wasn't done reading now, but i would be first in line to recieve his newspaper after he's finished.

Confused, I responded "Sure.. thanks." 

"Okay, I'll let you know." Chair Neighbour said, continuing to read.

I couldn't deal with these head games anymore, so I went outside to enjoy some yard time in the fresh night air. By this point, the gang of gaggling teenagers had made their way outside too and were taking turns to puff away on some sort of community cigarette. The eye-rolling woman from inside was picked up in an expensive car, and in the process of locating the leather front passenger seat with her rear-end she leaned out the door long enough to advise the noisy smokers to  "start acting like fucking adults and be quiet, because my friend is a police officer and he would have arrested you if he saw what you were doing inside."  Odd, how the promise of a quick getaway can bring out the honesty in people.

10.24pm :  It was almost time for my release. I followed the advice of the LCD screen on the right-hand side of the station entrance and made my way to Platform 1, from which point my getaway vehicle would escort me home. Bounding up the stairs to Platform 1 like a gleeful child, I almost tripped on the final step in my excitement, only sticking the landing thanks to some fast reactions and the motivation of a rather large  mysterious blue stain on the once concrete-coloured concrete floor.

10.32pm: There was still no sign of the train and a skunk made its way across the track. I noted to myself that I should not run across the tracks and jump in the bush on the otherside, as it appeared to be infested with rodents. As I was going over the possibility of spending the night with the bush-dwelling animals, the train bell rang out in the distance. About time.

The feeling of seeing those green and white carriages make their painfully slow way towards the station was worth the $10 alone.

I watched the station get smaller in the distance from the window of the quickly-accelerating train.

Free, at last.



kisekae said...

haha I love train stations! People watching and making up random stories to go along with them is a favorite past time. Just imagine what those people were thinking of you!

RAY J said...

lol train experiences are always amusing!

Allison said...

Rob I was hoping your story would include more about the newspaper guy. When you told me he wore a trench coat my first thought was "He was a flasher."

I have a deranged mind.

Hanging out in Union Station is a right of passage.

Rob said...

Kisekae: It's one of my favourite things to do, too. But at night time some very strange and haunting things start to happen at the train station.

Ray: Hopefully you found my ridiculously long blog entry fun too!

Allison: Haha, I guess I kind of left his part of the story hanging. I imagine he's still there reading.

Cheers for the comments everyone!

Anonymous said...

I'm rather curious about the newspaper bloke as well.

How odd/random was that? What a strange question.

And poor Station Worker Francis, having to put up with mouthy; noisy teenagers and trench-coat wearing probable flashers. Throw in a strike and it could be France!

Heather Howell said...

Love the prison reference throughout. Very well written. Thanks Rob.

Holly Renee said...

I feel for Francis. I don't know that I could handle the loud teenagers without going off on them. I have never been on a train for longer than a few minutes but there is something so intriguing about a train ride. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Ah train stations. My favorite line was: "As I was walking up to the Ticket Office to confirm that I would be serving a 45-minute custodial sentence in this railside Alcatraz..." brilliant and hilarious description.

And I know EXACTLY what you mean about finally seeing the train in the distance - it's like a screeching, honking answer to your prayers.