The 1:11 From Hurlstone Park Station [30/9/09]

A wiry woman in her sixties queued up at the train ticket window and asked for a ticket to the same place as the university student in front of her.  This young man had seemed excessively polite.  She copied him and even put on a voice.  The Station Master told his new employee not to take any notice of her.  She’s mucking around – does it every day at this time, he said – and she doesn’t even catch the train, she gets the bus.

The bus arrived and we filed on.  The vehicle began its lurching, rolling passage to Burwood’s shopping delights the long way, crossing both Liverpool Road and Parramatta Road, describing a corkscrew on the road map.  It is the sort of route a flash, nimble vehicle might take to avoid being followed.  But Sydney buses are neither flash nor nimble.  The breaks wheezed and other vehicles gave us a wide berth and I decided that it just might be fun to drive one of these.

Glare burst through the windows.  It was one of those sunny winter afternoons where it becomes uncomfortably hot for about an hour.

It soon became obvious that a bus, at this time of day, resembles a mobile social club for the middle aged.  These people knew each other, but only well enough to catch up for ten minutes – which was precisely the length of time it took to travel to the shops.  By 1:25 most of the first multiracial group were off at Ashfield and being replaced by another group, similarly mixed, with a handful of school kids and younger people thrown in.  One elderly Asian woman with an extraordinary Afro in grey asked a conventional-looking, conservative white woman of a similar vintage where she had been.  She said that she had been helping out the vicar and shopping in town a lot.  The questioner said something quite unrelated about her Catholic church.  It was less a conversation, and more two people making statements on an agreed topic.  They continued muttering at each other.

A young mother struggled on with a pram and a very small girl with a cute smile.  A polite young man gave up his seat for them and sat next to me.  When he moved away a few stops later it was possible to read the title of the information brochure he was holding.  It was about living with schizophrenia.

Up the front of the bus a second driver, who had hitched a ride to work, stood next to the driver and spoke to him.  Bus drivers seem to have a lot to say to each other – gossip and so on – or maybe they are just friendly.  In this way both men were breaking the rule clearly written near the driver’s seat: Do Not Talk To Diver.

On the way past McDonald’s a pair of blonde women could be seen leaving their car in the car park and preparing to go in.  They both wore T-shirts and scarves, and sunglasses held their hair in place.  They held elongated wallets in one hand and preened in the reflection of a window.  It was the same person twice.

“Hey! Hey!” rang out through the vehicle.  It came from up the back, near me.  A rotund Greek man’s stop had been missed.  He and a couple of women disembarked when the driver realised his mistake.  The vicar’s assistant got off too.

Five Dock RSL has been restyled “Club Five Dock” and covered in a kind of faux stone hoarding, complete with columns, making it a grotesque parody of an Ancient Greek temple.  Many in the local community have Greek cultural origins.  We also passed the Five Dock Hotel, the scene where notorious gang crime figure Michael Kanaan shot two men a decade ago.  Just down the street from the pub a male passenger got off and skateboarded down the street.  He seemed too old for this mode of transport.  He noticed a mate smoking outside the Beer, Wine and Spirits outlet.  The two chatted in the bright afternoon.

Canals and manufactured water views were visible as we drove though a district of Canada Bay, passing between the rear ends of factories where men welded and operated cranes.

An elderly man got on and read his book, Shakespeare’s Philosophy.  It was good to see someone with legitimate reading material for a change.  He read a chapter about Hamlet and clutched a small To Do list, but I couldn’t make out what was written on it.

We dropped off the garrulous bus driver at the depot and approached Burwood Westfield.  On the other side of the road a new batch of commuters waited for the return journey to Hurlstone Park.

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Published in: on January 2, 2010 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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