Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Tram Rage

I had to wait fifteen minutes for tram number 109 at Port Melbourne. Next time, I'll check the time before I leave the pub. We came second in the trivia quiz; it was the questions on AFL team corporate sponsors that did us in. Still, we got two bottles of wine out of it; one of them because I was finally able to dredge up the title of one of Roger Moore's James Bond films from the back reaches of memory.

When the tram arrived, I took a seat three rows back from the driver, facing forward. I took the window seat, with my bag on the aisle seat; there were two empty seats facing me. At that time of night I expected to have the four seat bay to myself all the way to the city. I took my book - the last volume of one of those interminable science fantasy epics - out of my bag. I'd read it several times before but it was a way to pass the time.

I had a pleasant journey until you got on at Crown Casino. You with your maroon vee-neck pullover and your perfectly pressed schoolboy grey flannels and your seven decades of aging and your short back and sides haircut. I should have known you were going to be trouble - I did sense that you were going to be trouble - when you stood beside the aisle seat where I'd parked my bag and demanded that I move over. Like a damned fool I picked up my bag and dropped it my lap and went back to my book.

But that wasn't good enough for you. When we got to Flinders Street you tried to poke your elbow in my ribs - you got my elbow instead - and demanded "Get out of my seat." I looked at you. You said: "I want my own seat. If I don't get it, I'll job you."

I felt like telling you what was what; I had three decades on you at least and if you tried to job me you'd end up on the tram floor. But I didn't want to provoke you to violence - however superannuated and ineffectual - with that kind of a challenge. I didn't want to end up in front of the beak explaining why I'd jobbed a vulnerable senior citizen. So, instead, I told you, "Look, I'm not in your seat, I'm in mine. You're the one getting aggressive. If you're not happy, go find somewhere else to sit."

You weren't having any of that. You replied: "All I want is my own seat." (I looked across at the two empty, backward facing, seats which you could have taken instead of the one next to me), "And if I don't get it I'll job you."

I felt like telling you that you were crazy; like the bloke I saw once at the Elizabeth Street terminus, who waved the business end of his umbrella at the crowd waiting to get on the tram as he got off. I thought, give it thirty years and this might be me and maybe I should cut the old bugger some slack. I tried to carry on reading my book.

But you'd spoiled it; I couldn't help wondering why you were so pissed off that you had to take things out on me. Had you blown your last pension cheque two cents at a time on the Crown pokies? Were you just some old bloke who'd been an arsehole all his life and now didn't know any better? Or had you copped the gold watch and an inadequate super payout at 65 and decided that's it, no more Mr Nice Guy? Maybe you were pissed off because you couldn't march on Anzac Day or join the RSL because you'd never been in a proper war.

In the end, I decided I didn't give a rat's arse why you were an obnoxious old bastard. So, when I got up at William Street to change trams, I said "Good Night yersenileoldgit." I took a look at you as I went out the front door of the tram; you were sitting there gaping and slack jawed. A thin dribble of saliva hanging off your lower would have made my satsifaction complete, but you can't have everything.