It took six months of solid work to get the seat. Endless days of arriving early, edging nearer to the final goal, eyeing off potential competition. Although it can fit 4 people, usually only two people got to sit at the ends, else you are infinging on people’s wide personal space. The day I finally sat was a moment I savoured, and I paused long enough before I started to guard my hard earned place. Some people don’t understand the unwritten laws of the train station wait, and new riders can often fall foul of experienced commuters.
Personal space is large, people have their waiting spots and there can be scathing glances if someone invades the unmarked areas.
Although you never speak to them, without realising it you get to know the regulars. I’m sure the people at my stop don’t realise I have specific names for them and imagine what their lives are like. There is the guy who looks like the channel seven sports reader, and for all I know it could be. He tends to arrive at the station at the same time as me, and gets picked up by his wife at the same time I return in the afternoon. I call him Peter. Then there is the lesbian who works for a state government organisation. I know this because my gaydar is pretty good and I’ve seen her girlfriend drop her off and pick her up. I’ve also seen her walk in to her office building. There is also the asian man who used to take the same train as me, but now he takes an earlier train. I haven’t figured out why yet.
While waiting for my train the pain begins. It starts with a rumbling noise, then gains momentum as the blue and white bands flash by. It’s the dreaded countrylink taking people to more exciting places than I’m going. Each clatter of the wheels along the rails sounds like someone saying “my life is better than yours, my life is better than yours”. They are heading off to glamorous Sydney or beautiful Byron Bay while I get to a look at a blue wall and a 21″ monitor all day. The best view I get is whatever image I have as my desktop picture that day. I’m sure I can hear the passengers laughing at me as they go by.
Once on the train there is the couple who seem very comfortable in their relationship as they sit beside each other and read. I’m rather fond of the man because he wears a hat like men did in the 30s and 40s – you know, when men were stylish. He doesn’t wear a tie, so it kind of looks out of place but I like his style. He and his partner always kiss each other goodbye. I also get to indulge in my favourite game of “how long is it going to take you to get out of your seat”. This is only used on students and the quicker they get up the more politeness points they get. There is a young boy and girl who are going to have to work a bit harder because they have never gotten up, but there are three girls who get up like clockwork at a specific point in the journey. I almost never have to look at my clock at that point.
The pain starts again as we pull in to Roma St and the tilt train is there waiting to snarl at me. It’s silver shell glints at me in the sun directing my eyes to it’s happy purple and gold highlights taunting me with it’s power. It knows it’s going somewhere good and it’s going to get there fast. It breathes arrogance because it is going to the beach every day to subtropical Cairns and Townsville. This hurts more than the countrylink because I am close to my final destination and already I am breathing in the fumes of the city.
Once at central I dawdle as I make my way off my moving sheep herder allowing all the other commuters to get off first. I’m in no hurry to get to work and relish these final moments of freedom. Emerging from the dungeon I blink in the sun as my eyes adjust to my surrounds. And bang, the final nail in my pain is hammered. The first thing my eyes see when aclimatised is “The Palace” – a backpackers hotel on the corner of Ann and Edward St. I can see the tourists hanging out their clothes on the balcony or still drinking from the night before watching us insane people trudging to work. This is the most obvious taunt of all, and I’m certain they all there to remind me that working 9 to 5 is not as cheery as the Dolly Parton song. It takes all of my power not to run back inside the station and hope on the next train out of Brisbane.
Instead, I cross the road and proceed to my desktop pictures of surf and sand dulling the yearning with a cup of coffee.