Friday, June 23, 2006

A creature of habit

Back in 1970 when I got my first full time job I was too young to have a drivers license and too poor to own a car anyway :-) Driving age in my home state, Victoria, is 18 and has been for as long as I can remember. I doubt it's going to change anytime soon.

For the first couple of weeks I tried travelling from home in St Albans to Seddon with Mum and Misery Guts and thence via bus to Kensington where I worked.

I'd been doing exactly that, travelling to Seddon with the olds, throughout 1967, 1968 and 1969 to go to school. Maybe that's when I learned to enjoy a good walk; Misery's workplace was a mile or so from school and it would never have entered his head to offer to drive me to school; nor would it have entered mine to ask. Kids in those days walked and so I walked. I note that nearly 40 years later that particular walk is on my 'must do' list each time I return to Melbourne.

I tried, as I say, for the first couple of weeks, to continue a three year old habit but timing was against me. Misery started work at 7:45 AM and he was in the habit of arriving at the workshop within a minute or two of that time. That left me exactly 45 minutes to walk from Station Road Seddon to the bus stop on Hopkins Street Footscray, a distance of maybe three quarters of a mile, catch the bus to Kensington, alighting at McCaulay Road and 5 minutes to walk from there to the workshop. Cutting it fine indeed for an 8:30 start.

Two weeks into the new job and it was clear this wasn't going to work. So I started taking the train to work. That meant a run from home to St Albans station at 6:30 AM to catch the 7:05.

St Albans was, in those days, the end of the line for suburban trains which meant that I usually had my pick of the seating. We also had smoking carriages back then (smoking on Melbourne public transport was legal until October 1 1978) so I picked a window seat in the smoking compartment right behind the driver.

Two stations up the line we stopped at Sunshine and without fail this crusty old bastard, not unlike Old Jock[^] got in. It seems I had usurped his seat. The first couple of days he contented himself with the glare routine and, whilst I certainly noticed I had no idea just why this old fart was glaring at me.

About the third or fourth day he tried ordering me to vacate his seat. Uh huh. That was certainly going to work!

I reckon he'd been doing the same trip from Sunshine to Flinders Street for probably 40 years. The irony of writing this 36 years later hasn't escaped me.

Over the next few weeks he tried any number of things to persuade me to cede the seat to him. Complaining that I was smoking (in a smoking compartment). Trying to enlist peer support from his travelling companions, most of them closer to his age than mine. But I wasn't going to give in and it became a point of honour that I sat in that seat and no other.

One morning he bested me! Imagine my surprise when the 7:05 pulled in to the end of the line and I entered the carriage only to find him sitting smugly in the seat he so coveted. Sneaky bastard had caught the train at Sunshine on it's way to St Albans!

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