Characters on Public Transport

I like to take public transport whenever I can. Not only is it better for the environment, but I find that my day is uplifted when I engage with strangers.

Over the years, I have caught ferries, trains and buses with a litany of characters, all of whom taught me a great deal.

There was Dawn, resplendant  with her toothless grin, colourful dress sense and fascinators. She befriended me when my daughter was a baby, and was my companion on many a bus adventure. She would borrow money, and return it to my letterbox as soon as she could. I remember one time at the bus stop, she proudly showed me what she had gotten on sale from the chemist shop. There was makeup, but also a tube of Vagisil. When she pulled it out of its container, the man next to us on the seat was noticeably alarmed, and more so when this older lady went into great detail about she and her husband’s sex life! “My poor old vag!” she shrieked, then roared with laughter. I was taken aback when I saw a parcel in my letterbox, wrapped in a bag from the chemist’s. I prayed that she wasn’t sharing her tube of Vagisil with me, and was greatly relieved when it turned out to be a bottle of perfume! It was around this time that she invited me to a party at her place for her birthday. I was touched by her invitation, and dutifully arrived at kick-off. I rapped on her door, and her husband gruffly called out to “come in!” I did as he asked, only to find him sitting on the toilet with the door open, his trousers around his ankles! I asked after Dawn, and he said he didn’t know anything about a party, and that she was down the street, drinking beer and playing the polkies. I made a hasty exit, I can assure you! She passed away a few years ago, and many folk she’d met on the bus came to pay their respects.

There was another lady, Jean, whom I met during an hour-long ride to our local hospital. She was in her 80’s and volunteered there, taking the trip a few times a week. It kept her active and agile, she said. After her shift, she would walk for kilometres to keep her bones healthy and her mind sharp.

I met a woman in her 90’s, who’d been a dancer at the Trocadero in Sydney, over seventy years ago. She was quite well known back then, she assured me. She still had the composure and essence of a showgirl.

I met men who were widowers, and wrote instructions as to how to prepare easy and nutritious meals for themselves. I learned about their partner’s, and about their life together. Unforgettable stories of love conquering all. Even death itself couldn’t destroy the legacy of the life they’d shared.

I’ve chatted to teenagers, and taken notes (or should have), as to what music and fashion is in, and what their thoughts are on certain issues. It is always enlightening.

Today I met a dear lady, Madeline, who was waiting at the stop to get home. Radiant in a purple dress and glasses, she held an electric-blue walking stick. She is on the public system’s waiting list for further surgery, and in a lot of pain. This little Italian women told me of her family, and her place out at Orangeville, where she grows all her own vegetables and fruit. I could almost taste the tomatoes, as she described serving them with balsamic vinegar and basil leaves for lunch.

I have met performers, who entertained a carriage full of weary train travellers. There is nothing a performer likes better than a captive audience. My daughter practiced crying on queu in crowded trains for her drama class. It’s a great training ground for a career in the arts! I have been captivated by a songstress singing opera, and young men singing spiritual’s.

Last weekend, I travelled with two mothers on the train. One mum brings her daughter to a class in Sydney each Saturday from Bathurst, and the other brings her teen from the Central coast! Huge dedication from these mums, and quite inspiring. They would do anything to fulfil their child’s passion. As a parent, there is nothing quite like the joy of your child finding something that feeds their soul. Lunches and snacks are packed, as are books. They told me that it’s a luxury to be able to daydream whilst looking out the window, or have a nap after a busy week at work. It is indeed a gift, to be able to slow down for those precious hours and connect with their child. To just be, instead of do.

I have sat with new (and exhausted) parents and their babies, frail travellers, heartbroken lovers, the homeless and those in business suits. I have made eye contact with a reluctant girl who just wanted to disappear, and also those whom have wanted to be seen.  At the end of the day, I guess we all want to be visible. To have courtesy extended to us, and have our stories heard. We all crave a smile and kind word. Public transport allows us the opportunity to have an impact on a stranger’s life. We may turn their day around with our actions. Every where I go, I look for the Dawn’s; those with raucous laughs and fabulous tales. I also search for the recalcitrant, the lonely and sad. People are complex… People are amazing. Life is hard at times. We need each other. A community can come into being on a train carriage or bus. Community can be brought to life on a ferry. Every journey is an opportunity for connection.

When life sucks, add some whimsy

 

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Definition of whimsy on http://www.vocabulary.com

We have a new Prime Minister in Australia. It is truly embarrassing. I was at a class when I received the breaking news on my phone, and announced to everyone that Peter Morrison had landed the top job! I had been under the mistaken belief that Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton were interchangeable. Perhaps, I was mislead in thinking that it was a shared role? With life feeling heavy, grey and frankly, ludicrous, it was time to escalate the whimsy factor.

 

I found some elf ears, much to my delight, and proceeded to wear them on public transport. Now, if you are a Sydney person, and have taken trains the past couple of weekends, you will know what a shambles it has been. Trips that would usually take 40 minutes were suddenly taking four hours, and that is if your train was running at all. Solution, elf ears! When I put these on, everyone started smiling, if not laughing. Conversations were started, and whimsy ruled supreme. There were even people stopped in heavy traffic gawping, as I waited for a bus.

That’s the thing about whimsy, it takes us out of our every day ho-hum lives. It is surprising, startling and without ego. It contains humour and frivolity, with no goal in sight, other than to delight. I was amazed at how a pair of elf ears could pick up the energy in a dreary space with tired and annoyed passengers.

Here are some other recent whimsical episodes of note:

 

We had a rainbow lorikeet feasting on jam left at our table and attended a mad hatter’s high tea at the Westin, Sydney. We fell in love with greenery draped over light fittings and up the walls at a bistro, and we ran through a water feature.

We admired the meticulous costumes of Cos Play characters on their way to some marvellous expo, and congratulated the raucous Kiwi’s on winning the Rugby. We listened to melodic buskers strumming their guitars and danced in the streets of Sydney. We were at the Body Shop, and nearly jumped out of our skin’s when one of the sales people let out a shrill scream. She jovially explained it was, in fact, a hiccup, and that it always alarmed people. She continued screaming, every minute or so, the poor darling.

I bought a solitary violet cream chocolate from Haigh’s, after unknowingly jumping the queue (which  snaked out the door). I was mortified upon turning around and seeing the people patiently waiting, and was greeted with bemused smiles, bless them! I watched my daughter soar through the sky on an outside trapeze. Why did she want to partake of this class? It was to feel the sensation of flying; the sensation of being free of all incumbencies.

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These are the moments we live for. The moments of unexpected beauty, the sublime and the ridiculous. If a pair of elf ears can make a carriage full of irate passengers smile, I may have to add an entire elf outfit to my repertoire. Life isn’t meant to be a series of annoyances and trials. The harder life gets, the more whimsy must be added. Whether that be in the form of a coffee mug or some novelty to make everyone smile. The moments of whimsy make life worth living.