The View From The Trams.

Well it’s Friday again, time for me to write and hopefully at some point, time for you to read. On that note I’d just like to say how much I appreciate the responses I’ve been getting and that I’m really feel blessed having so many people having a squize at my  daydreams.

So here I go. On  Wednesday I went for a ride on a tram .  To some weary public transport regulars that might seem to be of  little note, but for me it was like an adventure. To kick off my trek into the world I had to buy a myki. I joked with the guy at the seven eleven, that I already had my key in my pocket. He gave me one of those, ‘ If you think your funny you’re not,’ smiles and handed me my plastic card and  sent me off . And I must admit right there I expected more of a fanfare. I thought there’d be a signing on ceremony. A sort of welcome out of the front seat of you car and into the world of ptc. But there was nada. ‘ Can I use it straight away?’ I enquired of my mate behind the console. ” You can use it right this second he chirped,’ Which I took as meaning, get out of my shop you silly old bugger.

My Bride was visiting an old friend in Richmond so we drove over and I would catch the tram to my appointment . They hadn’t seen each other for years. For my wife and her friend Rose the day,  held the promise of a long talk, many hugs and I figured it would be nice if they had some time alone as they sipped on a new cup of old friendship. ‘I’ve got my ticket to ride I said. You two enjoy the reunion, I’m off to swipe on and swipe off I assured them !” Well, I was after Rose told me what stop to wait at,which tram to catch and how to use the plastic card thingy .

I waited for the tram at the designated stop and it might sound silly but I feel in love with the busyness. The footpath was buzzing  as people rushed by almost as fast as the traffic. There were young people. Old people. People in suits. A labourer in shorts and work boots, who had a snake tattoo that wrapped around his arm and had more colours on it than a dulux chart . In the ten minutes it took for my tram to arrive I saw more diversity than I’ve seen in Sunbury for the last year. I felt like a tourist. Felt like this wasn’t my world.  This was a new place, a new day and to cap it off I had a ticket to experience it all.  I felt that I wasn’t just on the way to an appointment, I felt like I was having a holiday.

My tram arrived! A big beautiful grey and white number. I shuffled on board farewelling my footpath dreaming to use my new, shiny, cashed up, Myki! I remembered Rose’s instructions on how to swipe on. I approached the swiper on thing with confidence. I could do this. I could be a man about town. A man with somewhere to go and a mobile phone. All I had to do was hold my nerve . I lunged at the screen twice waving my piece of plastic like it was something I’d been doing for months. And of course it didn’t work! I felt like a failure. Felt like a bumpkin from the bush and had to be rescued by a fellow traveller who got the little scanner thing to beep. I thanked him profusely for his help  and explained that I was a first timer. The young kid smiled politely and assured me I’d get the hang of it.  I was buoyed by his encouragement and fell in love with the notion that  on the trams, people help  each other. That the city has a heart and as the tram rattled down Church Street, I could feel it’s pulse.

I stared out the windows of that tram like a kid stares at toys in Kmart. We glided past the Good Luck Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant. Mobile phone shops that offered laptop repairs. A Vietnamese butcher shop. The towering Richmond Comission flats. A chemist that called itself, not only the cheapest in Richmond, but the cheapest in Australia. I watched as people bustled in and out of the shops. Got the urge to forget my hospital appointment and just hop of the tram and lose myself in the throng. But if I got off, I’d cut my ride short so I just tried to let the images sink in. Scrambled to find a little corner of my mind to use as a scrapbook for the pictures of my journey.

When I’d bought the Myki that morning, I didn’t realise that by days end it would have me ruminating on how the influence of other cultures has changed the city’s feel. Out in sleepy old Sunbury, it’s easy to feel removed from multicultural Melbourne. But on Church Street tram I got a fresh look at how vibrant, how diverse, how wonderful a suburban strip can become.  On the trip back to meet my bride I thought about politicians who try to convince us that we need stronger borders. About the popular media throwing around labels like, illegal immigrants and cue jumpers. I felt sad that a country like Australia which has gained so much from the influence and hard work of immigrants is now saying, we don’t want you.

I don’t have a degree in economics. I’m not a politician, I’m just a bloke who grew up in Carlton in the sixties and lived with neighbors from all over the world.  I remember how enriching that was.  Remember watching old run down terraces being painted in bright colours and hearing conversations in other languages and feeling lucky . I still feel lucky. Lucky I can stumble into a shop and buy a bit of plastic and go on a tram ride to experience something we need to hang onto and encourage.


8 thoughts on “The View From The Trams.

  1. Hi Barry, yes, travelling in Melbourne via a tram is a wonderful experience and certainly offers a unique perspective. As you say, immigrants make Melbourne the city that it is, and a refugee has every right to seek asylum.
    I too had a Myki experience today, a whole bunch of us from the Western Region Health Centre went in to the city for the White Ribbon Day march and rally at Fed Square. It was a very moving and emotional event.
    My Myki packed up at Flinders Street barriers, one of the attendants somehow configured it for me… Like you, I too soaked up the atmosphere and buzz of the city.
    Another fine piece of observational narrative writing told in your own inimitable style, Barry, and a poignant reminder of the humanity that we all share
    David Pedlar

  2. Hi Barry, like you it’s been a long time since I’ve done the public transport thing. I come from the ‘buy a ticket at the little window’ generation for trains; the time of ‘connies’ for trams. The last time I rode a tram was about eight years ago and like you, I felt I was in another world. I loved your line: scrambled to find a little corner of my mind to use as a scrapbook for the pictures of my journey. It captures so much of the outcome of the experience. You’ve got me musing now as to whether I should hop on-board again. Cheers Lucia

  3. Dear Lucia, Remember the little ticket boxes at Flinders Street. It always amazed me that those guys could keep track of all those little tickets hanging oin rows on the wall. I hope you do the Myki thing and like me have an adventure. Thanks as always, Barry.

  4. hi barry, i really enjoyed your post. i have been going into the city for some editing work lately and i adore sitting on train on the way in, reading a book and looking out at the magnificent scenery of country turning to city. i also love the buzz of little alleyways around flinders street and all the people grabbing lunch or a taxi or a coffee. we really are lucky being able to jump on public transport and access our amazing city aren’t we. thanks for the blog. xLisa

    • Dear Lisa, Thanks for having a peek at my weekly mumblings. ” The country turning into the city,’ What a great way to describe the change! Hope to see you at Rupertswood on Monday. Warm regards,Barry

  5. G’day Barry,
    Good to read a positive story about hopping on a tram. I especially liked your line:
    ‘Scrambled to find a little corner of my mind to use as a scrapbook for the pictures of my journey.’
    It sums up a bit fair bit of the writing experience, of trying to retain enough material for a story while the world is whirling around you. I look forward to reading more stories from your verandah.
    Cheers, Vin.

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