If you’ve been following our travels then you’ll know that we’ve spent a lot of time exploring coastal, regional, outback, inner and outer Australia, and enjoying hundreds of occasions of beautiful Aussie hospitality. We’ve been welcomed into towns, villages and even people’s homes and shown some of the best spots our wonderful country has to offer.
It’s left me with a feeling that we live in what must be THE friendliest country in the whole of this big, wide world and gives me the warm and fuzzies every time I think of it. Until, that is, I landed me a job in the city and found myself doing the daily commute on the train into work. Within 2 days I’d been yelled at, shoved around and significantly ignored (I’m not sure what offends me more – the abuse or the apathy) and it has shaken my theories to the core! Don’t get me wrong – I’m no stranger to the commute having done it for years as a youngster – and I’m pretty sure I pretended to be asleep at every station so the new arrivals wouldn’t want to disturb me and would sit somewhere else. It’s a scary moment getting on an almost full train – you can almost feel people’s minds yelling ‘don’t sit next to me’ and you have to choose who to annoy. It’s like the responsibility of picking a queue at the supermarket and getting behind the guy on the phone who can’t find his wallet and then questions the scan price of every item he’s trying to buy. You think you’ve picked a good seat only to find someone eating a full Maccas meal or falling asleep on your shoulder.
Trying to get a seat on a Sydney train be like….
Day one of my train adventures – I was on time (this has maybe happened once in my 10 year commute history), I had my cup of tea in hand and the sun was shining. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the station and I passed a few other early risers and we exchanged a smile and a hello. Sometimes in the outback you might not see another soul for a few days – so I’ve become used to having a yarn at every opportunity. When we’re at a campsite it’s customary to take an afternoon stroll, meet the neighbours, check out their rigs and get some next destination advice. It’s a pretty sociable life on the road – nothing like life at the train station – and I didn’t realise it for a while, but I found myself saying hello and smiling to everyone on the platform. The majority of people looked back at me as if I was about to try and sell them something. Here’s a tip – if you want to have a seat to yourself on the train all you need to do is make eye contact and smile at other passengers when they get on. You can almost smell the fear of having to get into a conversation in the air as they speed past the empty seat next to you!
Speaking of fear – I’ve found a new blood chiller that strikes anxiety into my very soul whenever I see it.
‘The Quiet Carriage’.
What fresh hell is this? What kind of society have we become that we need a dedicated carriage on a train where it is outrightly forbidden to talk to each other. Or anyone else? I inadvertently found myself in ‘The Quiet Carriage’ (capitalised for dramatic effect – please read in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator) and, not knowing it was even a thing that existed, never mind knowing that I was sitting in one, I had a quick chat to hubby on my phone to let him know what time I would be back. I noticed a very angry looking lady across the aisle – but since the ‘resting angry face’ seems to be the general uniform of Sydney commuters I didn’t pay too much attention. About 20 minutes later I took a photo out of the window and my phone made that little camera noise – I couldn’t help but notice there was a lot of huffing and puffing coming from the same lady – she was starting to look a little ill. Skip forward another 10 minutes and the ultimate misdemeanour – I got a text message. That was it. The straw that broke the camel’s back. She yelled. She was almost purple as she pointed out that I was in a quiet carriage and that I should shut up. I’m almost certain she made a lot more noise in her remonstrations than my text and photo combined – but no one else seemed to want to make a point of that, and to be honest I wasn’t really game enough either.
I smiled sweetly and apolgised – feeling a little hard done by, and continued to text fiercely on my now silent phone, when the man in front of me got a noisy text message. He’d only just got on the train so hadn’t heard our recent interaction – and he continued to get about 10 texts over the next 5 minutes. I thought she was about to have a heart attack – she was absolutely furious! She did not, however, mention his noisy texting to him. Maybe I looked like a soft touch – which irked me somewhat, but I didn’t fancy being on the news the next day for being involved in a train brawl so I didn’t bring it up with her. I was desperately hoping that the man in front would get a phone call but alas, it didn’t happen. This poor lady had the most stressful journey I’ve ever witnessed and I feel that she would have been much better off in a normal carriage with some headphones on.
What’s the big deal about peace and quiet anyway? Other people’s phone calls and conversations are a source of constant entertainment (I implore you at this point to head over and read the very funny ‘Adventures in Trainland’ by our friends over at Handbag Mafia.)
I think they should have ‘The Chat to Everyone Carriage’ as well as ‘The Quiet Carriage’ (channel that inner Arnie). Maybe Opal cards could come with a colour coded lanyard that commuters could wear indicating whether they fancy a bit of a chat or wanted to simmer in their own company for the trip. Green lanyard wearing commuters could hang out in the social carriage (they could maybe install a bar in there too?) whilst the red lanyard wearing posse could languish in their own grumpiness in the quiet carriages. I’ve heard that at schools now there is a bench where lonely kids can sit and other kids will come and be nice to them and make friends. What a great idea for trains too! Purple seats for friend seekers. Societies problems – solved on the morning commute.
Maybe someone should create an app where you can meet like-minded people on the train – a bit like Tinder but for commuters. Trainder? Think of the questions you could get answered with the captive audience available on your journey! Endless opportunities.
I managed to pick up some work in the city while we’re in Sydney – first day today and I’m commuting on the train! It’s been a long time since I’ve commuted to work and I’ve been making some meaningful (ahem) observations on train life so expect some of my regular ramblings on the blog soon. Here I am with a cup of tea out of my beautiful keep cup from the @ginger_factory in Yandina on the Sunny Coast – if I can’t still be on holidays then I’ll bring a bit of holidays to work! Have a great day fellow workers!
It’s really quite unnerving after such a long time away from the city – I’m travelling and walking with people shoulder to shoulder, closer in fact than I ever used to get to my hubby when we had our giant king size bed pre-bus days – and yet we’ll exchange not a glance or a word. It’s a bit depressing really. So if you see a middle aged woman on the train, drinking tea from a flowery cup and taking photos of the views out of the window please come and say g’day, share a seat and solve some of the world’s problems with me.
In the words of Handbag Mafia – ‘Sydney trains; always an adventure, even if you’re just going home.’
Don’t miss it by sitting in the quiet carriage.