Sitting on the bench killing eleven minutes before the next train arrived to take me to Flinders Street was engrossing and showed that human beings are fascinating creatures. Such a variety of shapes, colours, ages, size, plumage, outfits, poses, attitudes, odours and the ever-present 'ki-tich, ki-tich, ki-tich' of techno muffled by earbuds.
An old man walked past me pulling a portable oxygen tank behind him with the tube connected and hooked up to his nose. He was smartly dressed, slim and in a hurry. "No Way!" he laughed as I shifted over to give him space on the bench. I chose to interpret that as his being grateful to be up and about rather than an aversion to 40-somethings in jeans and sensible shoes.
Two adults limped up the ramp. Even from a distance it was easy to tell that they were both mentally challenged. Retarded. Is it okay to say retarded these days? Or maybe it should be only partially successfully integrated into mainstream society. Noticeable.
He was six foot six at least, and she was barely five foot. Both were holding some well-worn plastic shopping bags full of plastic bottles and when they found an empty bench they carefully placed these at their feet (both in tyre-thick black sandals) and held hands. Every thirty seconds or so the woman emitted a loud, girlish giggle which lit up her fifty-something face. He noticed that I was watching and smiled, as if to say, "Yep, and she's all mine." Their bliss was sweet....
....and a fair bit more innocent than the snogging couple behind me; her back rammed up against the pole holding up the 'Newmarket' station sign and his hands in her pockets. I didn't risk a longer look in case they mistook me for a nosey people watcher with nothing better to do than -- oh.
The unmistakable smell of burnt toast was coming from Pepper cafe below the platform. Aloof Rocker Dude on my right finally lifted his gaze from his iPhone, flicked his carefully cut and dyed long hair back and ostentatiously sniffed the air. Yeah you're a regular bloodhound, buddy. It's blackened bread alright. His shirt was cool though - a mishmash of seedy newspaper escort advertisements arranged in a mosaic pattern. He wore even more gold bangles than I did.
Three girls with the compulsory alternative Arts Student uniforms stood uncertainly by the main gate, pretending to be confident and laughing in volume but not truth. All had number three shaved heads - yellow and white blonde of course - and long floppy fringes. Tiny singlets, hemp trousers and ankle boots. Was it O-week already?
No matter, the train had pulled in. Ah yes, it must be. Two gooberish guys in surf shorts, graffiti-styled t-shirts and thongs were sprawled over the six seats. I squeezed past, hoping my shoulder bag (and arse) brushing up against their faces would inconvenience them and perhaps make them choose to sit by the window instead of the aisle next time. Goober Two was reading a university map resting on his jiggling knee as Goober One yawned a dorito-and mentos-scented response to the stress of catching the crack-of-dawn 11.28am train into Flinders Street.
It was time to get off and head to platform three to Glen Waverley. I found myself ambling along behind an elderly Vietnamese man, unintentionally slowing my pace so as not to overtake him or accidentally knock his walking stick. He wore a navy blue beret, Ronnie Barker thick-framed glasses with a long Mambo t-shirt and rather funky three-quarter cargo shorts. In fact, he was hipper than either Goober One or Two; even with his Crocs and socks. He looked both dignified (pretty hard in Crocs and socks) and comfortable. Coolness personified in my opinion.
I was soon lost in my novel and only looked up when it was the end of the line. Walking towards the exit and hoping that my zone one ticket would zap through without dramas, I saw several people helping an old man step down onto the platform. Other people behind them were lifting something with a bar - a shopping trolley or a pram holding his grandchild....?
Nope. It was a lawnmower. He thanked his helpers profusely and then wheeled it down the ramp and along the street. Sure, he had no car to speak of but the siren song of keeping a lawn or two under control was still too strong.
I slipped the camera out of my bag in order to photograph Mr Mower Man walking away, but thought better of it. I had an appointment to keep, one that I was already quarter of an hour late for and a fellow passenger in a bigger hurry than me jostled past.
It wasn't the fact that she looked like the love child of Kerry Packer and Billy Connolly, it was the back of her t-shirt. 'My Sexual Preference is Often'. Maybe she'd overtake Mr Mower Man, he'd read it; they start talking.....