Thursday, 20 February 2014

Personal protests against the East West link tunnel and a thousand reasons why catching public transport rocks

I mostly catch public transport to work. It's a bit inconvenient from where I live (relative to my workplace) but I do it because I love it. I get a train to West Richmond. Then I walk. Then I get a tram down Church Street. Then I walk some more.

Quite apart from getting my 40 minutes of moving, it's easily my favourite part of the day. I meander along, sometimes listening to music, sometimes I chat aloud to myself (a bit mortifying when I get sprung doing that one), sometimes I just sigh little happy sighs when there are lovely fluffy clouds hanging in the sky.

Or whatever.

If I have somewhere to be after work I sometimes do take my car (go-go free parking at work), and drive in the awful traffic (watching cyclists whiz by me, when I'm stationary for more than half the trip) down High Street and then down Punt Road.

Pause for effect.

Yep. My boss let me change my hours because Punt Road (in Melbourne) is so awful during peak hour. Some people call it the "C"-word Road. They're not wrong.

Anyway, every Friday morning there are a bunch of awfully faithful protesters who stand on Punt Road at the top of the off ramp from the M3 (actually it's technically "Hoddle Street" at that spot), with their banners that read "Toot if you love trains". They're protesting a new tunnel that's currently underway in Melbourne, the East West Link Tunnel. (Why the Victorian Government is spending so much on a new road/tunnel is beyond me - what with the introduction of the Carbon Tax, skyrocketing petrol prices and also multiple new congestion levies being put in place around Melbourne it seems counter intuitive to me, but what would I know?)

I always "toot for the trains" on Hoddle Street. I give a big wave and grin at the protesters. Those peeps are doing Melbourne a true service.

See, I love trains. I love all forms of public transport.

I've been thinking a lot about the merits of public transport recently. Perhaps in part due to those faithful protesters. But also just because fun and lovely joyful things happen on PT everywhere. Quite a lot more often than you'd think.

Intimate moments happen with complete strangers, and it's just something that you'd completely miss if you'd never caught PT before (and I've met people that have never caught PT before, *rolls eyes, if that's you - you're missing out on barrels of fun).

So there was the time I was staying with my parents. *clears throat. Okay fine, fine, living with them (briefly) a few years back. They live on the Frankston line, and I boarded the train at Mentone.

The driver was in high spirits that morning, he told us so, over the train announcement system.

"Gooooood morning passengers!" he said, "I have just today come back from a holiday and let me tell you it's wonderful to be back in Melbourne".

People were sort of smiling with their heads cocked, wondering what this was about.

"Annnnnd while I've got your attention, I would like to wish my friend [let's call her Lisa] a very happy birthday! She's sitting on carriage 4 and if you're not sure who to wish a happy birthday too she'll be the girl turning bright red right about now."

Everyone laughed. Some people cheered.

Then there was the time I was sitting on the train with my ex boyfriend, across from a lady and her young daughter (who was perhaps 4). They were talking about all the fun they were going to have at Moomba that day.

"Oh that's right!" I said to my ex, "it's Moomba this weekend!"

"What's Moomba", he asked me (he was new to Melbourne at the time).

"Oh it's this Melbourne festival thingo...umm rides, parades, you know, fairy floss that sort of thing."

The little girl's eyes widened considerably. She looked at her mum and said in her little voice, "can we have fairy floss, mum?!"

Her mum was a total hippy (bless) and looked at me imploringly. Incredulously.

"Sorry", I said to her with regret on my face.

"I don't think there will be fairy floss at the part we're going to honey", she told her daughter.


Of course, public transport can be challenging at times. I've been glared at, screamed at, perved on, groped (only once, thankfully), pushed around and farted on. I've seen a dirty old man with a huge erection completely exposed, and I've nearly sat on vomit more times I can count (here's me thinking 'yesssss there's a spare seat!' *dashes over to nab it...'oh it's covered in vomit WAHHH'). I've had to pretend to be super engrossed in a book because I've seen someone I reeeeeeaaallly didn't want to see. I've seen my fair share of crazy stuff ('specially on the 86, what a great tram route for confrontation). And once I had an argument with a dude because he offered me his seat but I declined it politely (I'd broken my coccyx and couldn't sit comfortably for months on soft chairs let alone on a bus that went over speed bumps).

I've helped pull girls through the closing train doors when they've almost gotten stuck. And I've laughed with people, cried with people (mostly me doing the crying though), and received plenty of (at times unwelcome) attention myself as well.

None of those moments happened to me while I was driving my car. And even though I'm a bit of a greenie when it comes to cars and home appliances and feminine hygene products (you're welcome, ladies) etc, even if it wasn't particularly better for the environment to catch PT I would still do it anyway. Just coz it's truckloads of awesome.

So. As I (regrettably) cannot join the ranks of the protesters on Hoddle Street (full time work, booo) - this is my personal protest against the East West Link Tunnel. Instead of getting my rage on, I'm feeling pretty loved up right now (thanks to a bunch of pretty great peeps giving me special attention this month - in general but also coz I'm Facebook free in Feb), I'm getting my joy on because there's so much wonderful in community travel. Annnnd it's way better for the environment.

P.S. If you live in the North and your name is Mary, try getting the train to work sometime. There's a station called "Merri" on the South Morang line, and I tell you it never gets old hearing the robo lady say every day "now arriving at [sounds suspiciously like 'Mary']". *giggle

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