Out of my way!

April 9, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Today’s post is a rant. If you’re not interested in pondering with me why today’s society seems to have lost its manners along the way or why CityRail is still having odd moments – then don’t read on. So….last Wednesday was my first day back at work after my Hong Kong sojourn. I dutifully boarded the Newcastle Snail Flyer to travel down to Sydney (about a 2 hour run). Now, I’d just spent a few days travelling around on the fabulously efficient MTR system in Hong Kong. So I was immediately comparing their rail system to CityRail.

Firstly, I cannot understand why Sydney airport (isn’t it a major international airport? maybe not!) doesn’t have a rapid Airport Express train into the city. You come out of immigration in Hong Kong and go a short distance to catch the Airport Express. Glass doors efficiently open up and you simply get on this sleek train. You can follow the train journey to Kowloon or Hong Kong stations via a blue computer tracking thing, you can watch TV or stare out into the landscape whizzing by. In Sydney, you get out of immigration (eventually) and you have to schlepp a fair distance to the end of the terminal, go along two moving walkways, down two long escalators, get your ticket, down a further escalator and – if you’re lucky – have a train come along within 15 mins. No TV on the train or computer system showing you the progress of your train journey. And no Express train as it stops at every station between the international airport and Central.

For your trouble, you have to spend around $AUD 13.00 for a 15-20 min ride with a single ticket, whereas in Hong Kong, it’s $HK 140.00 for two people to travel from the airport into Kowloon or Hong Kong (about $AUD 20.00) and it takes about 25 minutes. I know the argument: our airport line is operated by a private company, I think it’s called Airport Link Company. But somehow that argument doesn’t wash with me: we should be able to do this “moving people from the airport fast” thing a lot better, like Hong Kong. Isn’t Australia supposed to be a first-world country?

So…back to the Snail, sorry Flyer. We stop at Gosford, waiting, waiting. An announcement ages later. Sorry passengers, we’re delayed for 15 minutes because the train at Woy Woy is on fire. Say what? On fire???? Now, I know that Australians are as nervous as Americans about attacks from terrorists. So we all pondered the important question – has Al-Qaeda been smart enough to realise that if they take out the Flyer at Woy Woy they would totally bring Australia to its knees??!!! Nope, seems it was just CityRail having one of its quaint moments with a train that’s seen better days.

Forty minutes later, we get going. And here’s where my journey started to feel as though I was trapped in a Salvador Dali painting. Some dude had been asleep across three seats (taking up three seats, nice: did you buy three tickets??). He suddenly woke up and proceeded to undress. Took off his jacket, his T-shirt, his singlet. Until he was left with a bare torso crowded with ugly tattoos. Sorry guys: but tatts of Dear Mum or some Lolita on your arms or torso is NOT sexy. He then proceeds to spray his underarms with deodorant, fumigating the entire carriage at the same time. Then whips off his socks, changes into fresh ones. Whips off his track suit pants and changes into a new pair. Had you been sleeping all night on this train dude?

In the same carriage, I then had to endure a middle-aged woman putting on far too much make-up and spraying on perfume, along with a pretty young thing speaking extremely loudly into her mobile phone about her idiot boyfriend. Ladies: have we heard of putting on our make-up BEFORE leaving the house? Or calling our boyfriend from home?

For the privilege of seeing naked male torsos, learning about the art of putting on thick make-up and forcibly hearing about a teenage girl’s love life, I have to pay $AUD 63.00 a week for a weekly ticket to Sydney. Yes dear reader: $63.00. Oh, and this includes the graffiti on the trains too.

I arrive at Central Station about 45 minutes late and have to change trains to get to Town Hall. This is where the real fun of being a CityRail commuter begins. Pity I’m not one of those American grid iron players I see launching an attack with their shoulders onto a player from the other team. That skill could come in handy on the CityRail network. Because when the doors open at Town Hall or Wynyard and you proceed to alight, you are met with hordes of people waiting to get on.

Now, here’s where I’ll sound old and crusty. In my day……people stood back and waited patiently for people to get off the train before boarding. It was orderly, it was efficient, it was polite. Now, the doors open and these idiots come barging in before you’ve even had a chance to get out. If you say “hey wait I’m trying to get out”, you are met (as I was the other day) with words I won’t repeat dear reader!

I am loathe to be as rude and impatient as these people. But I’m beginning to wonder if I should don gigantic shoulder pads and a helmet and launch myself out the door, elbowing and tackling fellow commuters along the way!

Or maybe CityRail could employ some cunning elderly Japanese ladies. The Japanese are clearly very astute people. They have decided that manners have gone with the wind and they are sick and tired of passengers with loud music blasting out of MP3 players, people applying make-up or stabbing you with umbrellas. They have decided that intruding your personal conversation onto public space or lunging at doorways in your haste to get onto the train is just not on. So transport officials at Yokohama’s busy station have taken matters into their own hands and recruited an elite SWAT squad of senior citizens, who are being sent into the subways to restore order.

The squad is known as the Smile-Manner Squadron. There are 11 “manner upgraders” in bright green uniforms apparently with huge shoulder pads. The little old ladies shaft people out of their seats if they display rude behaviour. Should the recalcitrant person be bold enough to ignore the little old lady, then a young, burly bodyguard takes over.

I well remember a few weeks back going up to Newcastle from Sydney. Some dude in his 30s probably had his bag on the seat next to him and refused to move it. Many people asked him to, including one man who asked him to move it so a pregnant lady could sit down. He kept refusing. But he met his match. A guy who had been watching this ridiculous fracas got up, grabbed the bag and threw it down the aisle. The lawyer in me was thinking probably personal assault action going on here, but the other half of me was thinking “way to go dude”. The carriage erupted into cheers. The guy with the bag sat there with a surly snarl on his face unwilling to take on a person who was very clearly a determined Newcastle working man.

When on earth did we as a society lose our manners? When did we decide it was acceptable to plaster make-up on a train? When did we decide that not offering a seat to someone, preferring to keep our bag on said seat was acceptable (and does the bag pay for its ticket I ask!). I’m not going to sling abuse at the younger generation (ie those under 30) because offenders I have seen are 30+ years. Bring on the Japanese senior citizens CityRail!


Entry filed under: Rant, Social problems, Society.

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