A Short Memoir
Thursday, 20 February 2003
At the risk of writing an egotistical post about how wonderful I am, I'm going to tell you about something that happened to me a couple of years ago. It's a memory that keeps bubbling up to the surface when I think about the Iraq situation. It happened one Sunday afternoon while I was travelling home from Melbourne on the train.
For those who have never travelled on a Melbourne train, you need to know something about the rolling stock. Each carriage has a communicating door at either end which allows you, if you want, to walk through to the next carriage. Between the carriages there is an open platform, with a safety chain either side, at about waist height for the average adult human being. A sign over the door informs you that the platform between the carriages is for communication only and that you shouldn't ride on it. Nonetheless, from time to time people do.
It wasn't a crowded carriage - I'd say that there were no more than twenty people in it including, at the end furthest from me, three young boys. At a guess, I'd say the youngest was about seven, the oldest around ten or eleven. As soon as the train entered the tunnels of Melbourne's underground loop, they slipped through the connecting door and all three of them stood crowed on the "inter-carriage platform". This didn't strike me as particularly safe, so I was very relieved when they came back inside the carriage at the next station.
As the journey went on, a pattern developed: after the train left a station they went out into the gap between carriages and came back inside as the train approached the next station. And I became increasingly anxious: the youngest of the three was quite short enough to slip under the safety chains if he lost his footing, either due to an unexpected motion of the train or a little over-boistrous horseplay. As they became more self-assured about being out there, I realised that I was looking at an accident waiting to happen. I started to become angry too: there were others in the carriage who should have been able to see what I was seeing, and they were much closer than me to the problem. Why the hell wasn't anyone doing anything?