It hasn’t always been thus. I was born and raised in Sydney, and lived there for the first 20-odd years of my life. Having lived in a somewhat less metropolitan setting for the past 10 years, I struggle when I visit the big city.
How did I do that every day? The hustle and bustle. The (dreadful) public transport system. The crowds of people, staring relentlessly ahead, studiously avoiding eye contact, earphones surgically implanted. The sheer stress. It exudes from every pore. Everybody is in a hurry. The bus drivers look at you strangely if you say ‘good morning’. It’s like a different planet down there. Not a terribly nice one.
There is no sense of personal space. People crowd you on the trains. They crowd you on the buses. They crowd you in the fucking elevator. What is with that? You’re on an elevator with 5 or 6 other people. It stops, the doors open, and more people crowd in. You shuffle back. It stops again, and still more people crowd in. What is their problem? Will there never be another lift? They can’t wait 45 seconds for the next one? Eventually, you stand at the rear of the lift, on tippy toes, with your back pressed to the wall. Then, the lift arrives at your floor and people glare at you BECAUSE YOU NEED TO GET OUT! Did they think I lived in there?
On Thursday morning, it took me about 25 minutes to go approximately 2kms on the bus. Why didn’t I walk? Because it was pissing down with rain, it was humid, and I didn’t want to be all wet and smelly when I arrived. Lo and behold, with 400 wet, smelly people on the bus, I may as well have walked. When I arrived at my destination, there was a long queue of people. There was a coffee cart located near the entrance of my building, and I commented to a colleague that a lot of people were lined up for caffeine. Alas, no. They were not lined up for caffeine. They were lined up for the elevator. I kid you not. There were 4 elevators, however 2 were out of order. Convenient, no? So there they were, lined up, down the entire length of the L-shaped foyer, out the front door, onto the footpath and all the way down to the bus stop. In the rain.
That afternoon, the sun came out. I decided a brisk walk in the fresh air would be a good thing after being cooped up in the air conditioning all day. As did every other person in the entire city. Still carrying umbrellas, because remember? it was raining that morning. And, it was Valentine’s Day. So lots of them were also carrying large bunches of flowers. Some were carrying balloons. Others were carrying boxes of long-stemmed roses. And not one of them noticed me walking along minding my own business. Because NOT FUCKING ONE OF THEM was looking where they were going. Not one. And quite a number of them
deliberately smashed accidentally bumped into me.
I was slightly out of sorts when I arrived back at my motel.
It wasn’t all bad. Really. The Vietnamese rice paper rolls for lunch on Wednesday? They were good. The sizzling szechuan (I don’t know how to spell that) lamb that I had one night was also good. The $7 steak, chips and salad at the pub was very good. And I really can’t complain about the alcohol. It was in plentiful supply and helped me to keep my spirits up (so to speak).
Did I mention the trip home? I decided against travelling on the bus with my luggage, so I left it at the motel. I caught the bus to work, caught the bus back, waited 15 minutes for someone to fetch my suitcase, then lugged it over to the train station. I boarded the train at about 4.30pm. I happily read my book, occasionally glancing out the window. Laughed at the commuters stuck in traffic on the freeway. Dozed off a little. About one and a half hours later, the train pulled into Gosford. At which stage it terminated. Approximately 40 minutes south of where I wanted to be. "All out, all change. Buses replace trains between Gosford and Wyong due to trackwork". Nice. Dragged my sorry arse, with luggage, off the train. Followed the signs to the bus stop. No bus. I’m sorry, but if buses are replacing trains, SHOULD THEY NOT MEET THE FUCKING TRAIN? Or is that just me? 15 minutes later, the bus arrives. Naturally, it’s the all stations. The express will be through in half an hour, by which time I can be halfway there. What to do? Well, this bus is here. The express may never turn up! Ok. Another half hour later, we arrived at Wyong, where I had to drag my sorry arse back onto a fucking train. Sat there for another 3 or 4 stations, then finally arrived at my destination. At around 8pm. Folks, for those of you who may be mathematically challenged, that’s around three and a half hours. For a trip which normally takes two. Thanks, Cityrail. I guess those commuters on the freeway may have had the last laugh!
Overall, it was ok. I’m back home for a week now, then heading back down next Sunday. This will continue now until the end of May, by which time I will be totally, completely over it, and the city of Sydney will be like an instrument of torture. I’ll probably never choose to set foot there again. It’s too much for this country bumpkin.