The Metro has no driver. No guards. No lolly trolly. It’s one flat, long, vaguely hospital-corridorish carriage with a big window at either end. This means that if you can outmanoeuvre or otherwise shoo wide-eyed little kids away from the prime real estate, you can look out and see the track get gobbled up.
The front-facing window genuinely seems like magic to me, which is cool. It’s also a bit horrifying, given the City of Sydney’s record with Ghost Trains isn’t exactly world class.
It’s not as easy as you might think to catch this slick, self-important magic train. The Metro is actually a bit of a dick. There’s no driver and no staff and so no possible way of fighting the two layers of thick, Not To Be Fucked With, bomb-proof doors that will just all of a sudden start closing and won’t stop closing until they’re closed.
Most commuters think about rising autonomy of robots and machines on the long ride from Chatswood to Tallawong.
Wherever the fuck Tallawong is.
The absence of figures of authority, as well as the open hostility of the train towards its passengers, creates a permeable tension on the Metro. Chaos lurks. It’s quiet but almost too quiet. No one looks at anyone. It feels like there’s a fraught and fragile peace that could snap at any moment, Lord of the Flies style—like, if all just started eating each other there’d be no CityRail staff around to stop us.
I saw some such anarchy last Tuesday night.
I entered the Metro, despite the best efforts of the doors. There was a man on board, standing vaguely in everyone’s way, speaking loudly on his phone to a person called Karen who he either hated or loved very deeply. I could tell from the stolen reproachful glances that everyone agreed the loud talking constituted Strike One. Then the phone man locked eyes with me. And he didn’t look away. And he seemed to really want me to look at him.
This is almost never good. It’s also Strike Two.
The man recklessly ripped off his backpack, and though he didn’t technically bump the commuters around him he certainly almost bumped them—despicable. He took out a packet of peanut M&Ms, which was somehow more offensive than regular M&Ms, and started waving them around like maracas, using them to punctuate points he was making to Karen on the blower. Obviously this is Strike Three.
The trained dinged at us. ‘This Metro train will stop at… Epping,’ it said, in a patronising automated tone. We slowed, and slowed, and then suddenly became completely stationary, causing a little jolt to pass though the carriage.
This jolt is my favourite part of any Metro journey. You can tell a lot about a person’s character and train catching pedigree by the way they negotiate this very brief moment of Metro-physics. Veteran or otherwise well-to-do commuters simply brace and absorb. Phone scrollers almost always stumble but very rarely properly eat shit. The weak of heart and/or mind will release a little yelp and start groping desperately at God’s thin air until they realise they haven’t actually lost their balance.
The Third Striker chose the exact moment of the Metro jolt to try to open the packet of M&Ms with his free hand and teeth. And this is what is wrong with him in a nutshell.
The M&Ms do not burst forth in slow motion and carve colourful, comical parabola through the Metro, like they would in movies. They just sink. Bam. Straight down. I’m not sure how many peanut M’s are in a standard pack these days, but man, it really seemed like there were ten million of them. They hit the floor and zip all about the carriage.
‘Fuck me Karen, I spilled,’ he says into the phone, like it’s Karen’s fault, as he bends to pick them up one at a time (?!).
By this point the Not To Be Fucked With doors are open, and he’s right smack bang in the middle of the action, on his knees, forcing commuters to step over and around him while, simultaneously, three or four of the world’s absolute worst people are tying to jam themselves onto the train upstream before everyone has finished alighting.
It takes every ounce of my cat-like agility to duck and weave and literally hurdle the crouched maniac, who must be up to Strike Six or Seven by now. I narrowly miss my connection at Epping and I blame M&M man to this day. (Sunday).
And anyway, this has been a very convoluted way of letting you know that I’ll be sending you less emails.
Despite this blog, I’ve somehow managed to get myself employed full time, which is what the peak hour Metro-ing is about. I’m only telling you this because I imagine the AME stories will be less monthly and be more like once or twice a fiscal quarter. Pending the fulfilment of critical KPIs, and the approval of head office. This is how I speak now.
Most of my after-work energy is going to be going into my podcast series, These Stories Are Not Real. But I guess I’ll still send short, train-related grievances here as they come to hand. You can also always check out the All My Eggs archive if you are in desperate need of a story (seems unlikely).
And just, before I go, I’d like to reiterate that people who try to board trains before everyone has alighted are The. Worst. People. In. The. World. This has been the biggest challenge of working life so far. How are they still doing this? We’ve had trains for so long! Just fucking wait! Oh my god.
Good luck out there.
(Emerging Corporate Stooge, Private-Sector Leech, Part Of The Problem, Connect With Me On LinkedIn)