Thursday, July 02, 2009

Umbrellas, Trains & Rude Commuters

Well, winter has once again come to Melbourne, and being a 5 minute walk from a train station I get to watch public transport commuters trudging to and from the station, collars turned up against the wind, side stepping puddles and holding their umbrellas to ward off the constant drizzle that is a Melbourne winter.

Seeing these people pass by, buried in their winter woollies, makes me remember the Autumn and Winter of 2007. I was still working, and using public transport on a daily basis. I was also making fortnightly pilgrimages to the hospital for check-ups as I was also 6-7 months pregnant at the time, not one of my jackets buttoned properly over my belly any more, and yet when I (like so many other commuters) headed for the ludicrously small covered area my local train station provided, I was often left standing in the rain.

One particular day sticks in my mind, I was headed out after work and had to change trains at Ringwood. Unusually cold for the time of year, (it was not yet Easter) there was a biting wind and a steady rain, which even though it was light could soak you to your skin in just ten minutes. Getting off the first train, and knowing I had 10 minutes to wait till the next I headed towards the waiting room & extended roof, looking for shelter, only to come up against a wall of backs as everyone else was struck with the same idea.

It was peak-hour, of course the covered area was at a premium, but as I stood there, huddled with the other passengers who had missed out on the coveted shelter, I looked toward the roofed in area of the platform and realised beneath it was a sea of umbrellas.

Not folded umbrellas tucked beneath people's arms either. Open umbrellas held aloft as their owners waited for the train... underneath the roof! I couldn't believe it, I was stuck there huddled in the rain and wind, with countless other similarly stranded passengers, while a bunch of inconsiderate commuters who evidently didn't think their umbrellas were made to actually get wet. I don't know, maybe they were afraid they'd melt if they made contact with water, like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz?

Their rudeness too, affected more people than usual as well. On a packed platform it is not unheard of to stand shoulder to shoulder, including to make the most of the precious little shelter provided, it is often a very snug situation, which for the most part is taken with good humour and grace.

A raised umbrella on the other hand creates a "force field" of sorts, as it widens the area a single person needs to occupy, as you need to watch to make sure your umbrella doesn't get tangled with someone else's and more importantly that your eyes are not taken out by the flailing umbrella next to you as the owner, unaware of anything but the phone call they are loudly making waves it around to emphasise their point to a person who cannot see them in the first place. Umbrellas thus force people further apart and reduce the number of passengers who could share in the shelter.

The simple solution obviously is to buy my own umbrella, which I did, twice. But being 7 months pregnant I was lucky if I could have remembered my own name, let alone an umbrella on top of my keys, wallet, phone, and the 40,000 item to-do list I had at work. I am no longer in possession of either of those umbrellas and I can only assume they have gone on to a better place thanks to Connex Melbourne.

I'll willingly admit if I don't have an umbrella & I miss out on a covered spot that's fine. When the area has been occupied by other similarly umbrella challenged commuters. But I don't like being left out in the cold thanks to a bunch of inconsiderate pricks!

So please, if you do have an umbrella & are waiting for a train. Do everyone else who is not as lucky as you a favour and stand in the goddamned rain! That's why you bought it, get your money's worth!

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