Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Photo February - Day Twelve

Assume the Position, 109 Tram, Victoria Street

I can't comprehend the silence of the inner city tram. It's not so much silence and the lack of any sort of real communication going on around me. Everybody in this shot is either looking down, pawing at a smart phone or they are staring into space, earphones in, oblivious to everything around them.

From my position, behind a pole and jammed up agaist the door, all I can hear is the rather loud doof-doof-doof of the bass coming from my left and the metallic clack of wheels on the tracks amongst the ambient white noise of the early morning rush hour traffic that encompasses the tram. I want to tell the owner of the doof-doof music to turn it down and that he must be wrecking his hearing, but that he is dressed in a sharp suit and an angry snarl makes the think the better of it. I was on the verge of telling this woman to turn her music down - Nicky Minaj and some other crimes against humanity she was playing, but she got off at the next stop before I could say anything.

Nobody talks to anybody on the tram - unless you are a couple. Then you talk about the banalities of little Tarquin's schooling or discuss what you're doing for dinner. Nothing that interesting really. We have dancing couple on our tram - I see them now and then. Anybody with doof-doof music and dancing couple will bop along to the beat - normally shaming the owner of the doof-doof music.

Actually, I lie. There are three types of people who talk to you on the tram every now and then.

The first type, we have a are the certified crazies. The 109 has a collection of nutters who will talk to you, or the tram at large in very loud, slurred voices at all times of the day and night. We have an aboriginal gentleman with St Vitas's dance who will take you out with a stray limb if you don't offer him a seat. There are the junkie couple, Collingwood scarves and duffle coats, looking for spare change for their next fix. There are the folks who live at the halfway house in Kew who are always ready for a chat. They'll always try and spark up a nonsensical conversation with you.

The second type of person who talks to you on the tram are people from the country.

People from the country always talk to you. And it's always variation of the same conversation.

"Hello, I don't take trams much. Where is St Vincent's Private / The Eye and Ear Hospital / Southern Cross Station?" This comes from the mouth of a later-middle-aged person, normally wearing Mum jeans and a windcheater with an overnight bag in tow.
"You're about four stops away."
There is a look of relief on their face. "Oh, that's good. I don't take trams very often and I don't know where I'm going really. Do you know if I have to swipe this card thing on the way out?"
"No, you don't. Only if you take a train do you do that."
"Oh, and how do I stop the tram? I can't see a cord."
"There are badly placed red buttons. Don't worry, we'll get you off in time. I'm going past there"
"Oh thank you. I find it funny that nobody talks on the tram."
"You're from the country, aren't you?" 

You have to ask.

Normally these chatty people are from somewhere at least 100 kilometres away. Sometimes the venture from far a field as Adelaide or Queensland.

"You you hang on the the rail. Don't want you falling over." You tell them. The tram will lurch forward at this time and the person will nearly fall over, their overnight bag flying down the aisle with the force of a cruise missile.

"How do you know I'm from the country?"
"You're talking to me, and you're talking to me because I look friendly. Only people from the country talk to strangers on trams. It's a pity. It's nice to have a chat on a tram every now and then."
"But you're talking to me."
"I'm originally from the country. It's okay. I get it."

The conversation will continue until they get off. You get to hear all about their medical woes, transport nightmares and the fact that their son is marrying a sweet but daft woman from the outer suburbs.

The people from the country are great. There should be more of them on the trams.

The third type of people who will talk to you on the tram are ticket inspectors - but since the introduction of our much maligned new ticketing system, Myki, I don't think I've seen one.

Maybe Myki, a system that calls out to everybody to fare evade because the system is so dreadful, has made ticket inspectors defunct. Maybe the fact that they were starting to get nicknames like Stormtroopers and Press Gangs has made them consider their tactics - the bad press running them to ground and check your tickets by radio wave. Maybe they're waiting for another billion dollars from the state government for them to develop Myki checking machine. Knowing how this project was run, it wouldn't surprise me.

Regardless, I look at these people on the tram assuming the required position, either head down looking at a small computerised gadget, or staring into space and I know how much they are really missing out on.

What would happen if they looked up and took in some of the world?


Kath Lockett said...

I always talked to people on the tram.

Erm, does that make me fit into the first category....?

Pandora Behr said...

No, like me, you belong in the "from the country / Adelaide bucket". I only talk to people when they strike up a conversation with me - but I will talk to anybody most of the time.