Sunday 23 March 2008

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No Bloody Seats

John Sawyer © March 2008

“What sort of a city can have a major tram stop without seats?” She was too young for her walking stick but old enough to have the confidence to engage in banter with a fellow traveller. Her eyes had the hint of a mocking smile that sucked me in.

“Well there are these bar things you can rest against. That’s the best we can do these days of sardine travel.” I squeezed along to make room. “Oh, I see, your bum’s too low.” Shit, why did I say that? Well it’s a nice bum and she did point at it as she tried to place it on the stupid bar thing. “Not real good is it. I could boost you up. No. Perhaps not.” Shit again, I could be taken for an old perve.

“There’s a tram coming now, can you see the number?” “No, but it’s old. See the light in the middle. It’s probably a Circle.” Of course it’s a bloody circle you dill, she can see that. “I mean Circle tram. Where are you going?” “Bridge Road, Church Street” “You need a 48 or 75. There’ll be one along soon”.

We look along the track searching for a tram to get us away from this heat. After 8 and it’s still in the high 30’s. My rucksack is glued to my back. I probably smell bad but I won’t be alone.

“Are you from Melbourne?” “Yeah but a long time ago. Everythings changed, well not Flinders Street Station. That’s still the same.” She points across to Fed Square, “I can’t say I think much of that monstrosity over the road.”

“Well, I didn’t think much of it as I watched it being built and when they finished, I was making smart arse comments wondering when they’d take down the scaffolding.” Shit there I go with bums and arses again, “but I’m a convert now. I reckon it’s the best city square I’ve been in. It holds heaps of people and everyone can see. A great space for a celebration or a demo. I’ve sung there.” “Oh do you sing?” She beams now. “Yeah me and my wife sing a bit in choirs.” I’d better be upfront.

“But there’s no shade?” Hmm.

“I suppose you’re right, ‘specially on days like today.” That smile is broadening, I have to defend my home town. “Did you go to the gallery? I guarantee you’ll change your mind if you go there.” “No, I didn’t see the gallery.” “Well it’s up the other end near Russel Street. Argh… Ian Potter Gallery. A great indigenous collection.” “That sounds good.” “And all the old iconic paintings you’d remember from your school papers.”

“Sounds great! Ian Potter you say.” “Yes. Go to the top and walk down. It’ll be easier with the stick. Make sure you look at the building itself and look back out the windows and see how the city is framed.” Our eyes hunt along the track for a suitable tram again.

“How long have you had the stick?” She looks me straight in the eye, “Twelve years” We both look away again.

“Here’s your tram, enjoy the rest of your stay.” She goes in the front door. I sneak in the back, embarrassed.

I watch her as she gets off at Church Street. What sort of a city on the edge of a desert has a meeting place with no shade? What sort of a city has a tram stop with no bloody seats?


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