July 05, 2012

Another Slice of Life on the Midland Train

More glimpses into another world, thanks to the Midland train.

Tonight's journey was a feast for the senses ... and the soul.

A few seats away, a rather inebriated middle-aged man was playing unidentifiable but mournful-sounding tunes on his guitar, accompanying them in a loud, unintelligible warble, while his more sober friend sat cross-legged on the floor opposite, swaying to the music and performing yoga-like moves with his arms and upper body.

Next to me, a large and unkempt young man was hunched forward, muttering to himself and sloshing his can of soft drink over our feet as the train lurched. Every now and then he would undertake a vigorous exploration of an ear or nostril, wiping any discoveries on the leg of his liberally stained tracksuit pants. Even more memorably, he would lean heavily against me or his other neighbour every few minutes to lift a buttock and allow a very fragrant fart to escape. I'm at a loss to explain why the other passenger didn't move, or why nobody commented. It would have seemed "rude", I guess.

My reason for staying put was on my other side.

A young and heavily pregnant woman had struggled aboard with a young child in a stroller and holding another by the hand, and I'm glad to say they were offered the Priority Seats. Their clothes, shoes and the stroller itself were very well-worn but clean, and the mobile child remained fairly quiet and seated during the journey, in wonderful contrast to many passengers of his age who are allowed to swing on the poles, run around, climb on the seats, shout and generally do what they like. The boy in the stroller looked older than his brother, but it soon became clear that he had a major disability, with his head constantly lolling forwards and his hands picking aimlessly at his clothes.
But the image that will stay with me is of his mother gently stroking his hair away from his face every time he slumped forward, causing him to raise his head and flash a wide, delighted smile at her and the world in general. It simultaneously warmed and broke my heart.

So I could not possibly have moved from my malodorous neighbour without appearing to be moving away from this Aboriginal family, and I would have been deeply ashamed to appear so offensive.

It does us all good to suffer a little transient discomfort while being reminded of the infinitely more difficult path others follow every hour of their lives.


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