A Commuter in Perth

22 11 2012

When Mel and Koshi (TV breakfast hosts at Sunrise) said it was going to be a sunny 30⁰ in Perth, I couldn’t have asked for a better reason to dig out my brightly coloured summer dress and sandals for work.  It was going to be a beautiful Spring day, I had my happy dress on and of course it was Friday… only the best day of the week.

As I waited at the bus-stop in the warm sun, a lazy grin plastered across my face and the sun creating a hazy halo around me, the Joondalup street cleaning truck slowly approached.  The driver often passed me by with a wide berth, a toothy grin and a friendly wave.  He would appreciate my happy dress I smiled to myself.  Not today.

It was a replacement driver who blustered past me with his noisy rotating brushes, spraying a dirty film of water up out of the gutter and all over my sandals and my freshly applied fake tanned legs.  I quickly flicked my feet backwards and stared down at the black freckled pattern covering my shins, sandals and pink painted toenails.  I glowered after him with a face like a cat’s backside.  Eventually he put his truck in reverse and started beeping his way back towards me.  I was sure that my apology was slowly approaching, but he passed me by, stopped, changed back into first gear and began rumbling towards me again.  It seemed he had missed a spot.  Not to be caught out again, I skipped backwards as he approached and smiled smugly as the noisy truck roared off into the distance.

At that moment the 467 pulled in and I hopped happily up the steps.  “Good Morning,” I sang, sweeping my SmartRider card across the scanner with a flourish.

“Is it?” the grim-faced bus driver snarled.

“Oh,” I squeaked.

“Welcome to the Shit Express,” he grumbled, obviously a reference to the 1960s bus he had been allocated for his route that morning.  Not knowing how to respond to such a greeting, I quickly shuffled towards the nearest seat lest he accelerate quickly in anger and send me reeling to the ground, my happy summer dress lodged up over my head and my not so happy underpants exposed to the bright sunshine.

As I sat on the bus, too scared to breathe a sound (much like the other passengers), I mused quietly about my experiences as a commuter on the public transport system in Perth this year.  And to be honest, I can see why people say “I would NEVER use public transport!”

A sense of social decorum is noticeably absent in some people on public transport.  Sadly it’s mostly young adults.  From the young woman who loudly broadcast (with spectacular imagery) how “lucky” she’d got last night, including showing the bus driver the smattering of hickies across her ample bosom, to the Snoop-Dogg-wannabes sitting at the back of the bus with their boxer shorts exposed, swearing profusely and “pumping” the rap music from the tinny speakers of their cheap imitation i-phones.   And at least once a week there is a young couple in the midst of a saucy and entirely inappropriate public tryst.  More often than not, in the seat directly in front of me, such is my luck.  M-rated displays of public affection are something that one just does not need so soon after their Weetabix on a morning.  And then there is the girl who is permanently on her mobile EVERY SINGLE DAY for the entire seven minute trip to work and the entire seven minute trip home.  For a while I wondered if it had been surgically attached to her ear.  I’m baffled that she’s got friends left to talk to, she maliciously slanders a different girlfriend every morning!

However, it is when I have been standing at the bus stop near my school that I have suffered the most abuse, and as much as I try to fathom why I am a target, the only explanation I can come up with is that some people are just arseholes.  Unfortunately, and I really begrudge saying this, they’re all men.

My first incident involved a man in his twenties driving past, thrusting a megaphone out his car window and screaming “PICK ME UP!”  As obviously unexpected as this was, he frightened the absolute daylights out of me, and it didn’t help that the megaphone made an unnerving screech before the words came tumbling out of it.

In the second incident another young man in a white van thought it would be hilarious to cause his vehicle to backfire loudly right next to me.  My heart exploded in my chest, adrenalin surged through my body, one knee jerked upwards in an attempt to quickly get into the foetal position while I balanced precariously on the other, my arms cowered above my head, my eyes were squeezed shut tightly and I was braced for the impact of bullets and shrapnel.  Of course, once I realized that the danger was just a pint-sized punk who had nothing better to do, I felt extremely foolish.  I spent the rest of my wait for the bus flapping my shirt sleeves to disperse the perspiration that had flooded there with the threat of imminent death.

The worst incident by far was when a carload of middle-aged men sped past me and shouted “F**K YOU!” from their windows.  I was stunned!  How can a female waiting patiently for a bus be deserving of such abuse?  And one really has to be careful not to respond in a way that will antagonise someone who is already, it seems, pretty good and worked up.  I find that staring straight ahead without a flicker of recognition works well.  However, on that occasion I was so frightened that they would turn around and come back for another go that I rang my husband and made him stay on the phone with me until the bus arrived.  He immediately asked if I got their number plate – a difficult thing to do, I argued, when you are trying not to look directly into the face of danger!

And the most recent notable incident (prior to the grumpy bus driver of this story) was at the end of a journey home when a car was parked in the bus stop where I was getting off.   As the bus driver pulled in, he blasted his horn at the offender who had chosen to park illegally.  As the bus doors opened and I descended the steps, the stocky, black singlet wearing owner of the car leaped on to the bottom step and began to abuse the bus driver.  “I’ve broken down ya f**king dickhead…..” he shouted in a strong Australian accent, spittle flying violently from his mouth.  The barrage of abuse continued for a full minute before there was a pause, where I politely squeaked, “Excuse me sir, do you mind if I get off the bus now?”  Thankfully he stormed away back to his car and with shaking knees I hastily stepped down onto the pavement and hurried away.

What is so extraordinary about all of these incidents is that they all happened on a Friday.  Are people just so hyped up for the weekend that the “fun” has already started and their good social graces have been left at the time-out machine at their workplace?

When I breezed onto the bus on Friday morning in my happy dress I really should have known better.  People in Perth are tightly wound on Fridays.  Maybe they have had a tough working week.  I couldn’t care less if the “Shit Express” shakes and rattles a lot because it’s old, or is difficult to get into gear.  We are all doomed to that fate unfortunately!  Instead I enjoy the fact that someone else is dealing with the city traffic on my behalf, that I can sit and enjoy my novel on the way to work and that I can text my mum in New Zealand and wish her a pleasant day.

Being a commuter in Perth is, well, interesting.  I usually have a story with which to entertain my colleagues when I arrive at work most mornings.   But it won’t be forever.  Who knows, I’ve been good this year, so maybe Santa will bring me a cheap runaround for Christmas.  In the meantime fellas, ease up on me a little while I wait patiently for the 467.  You’ll be home knocking the top off that Corona long before I will be – the bus is running late again, so why completely ruin my day?