The city of Melbourne and its suburbs are said to have a great network of public transport, consisting of buses, trams and the metro. You simply go to a website, put in your address, the place where you want to reach, and it chalks out an entire travel plan for you. Is that not cool, I thought to myself. What did I know then, that I was just challenging fate, trying out things too soon, to do it right, being my clumsy, goofy self.
So here I was on a bright afternoon, out with the BB to meet a friend and her daughter, in the heart of the city. The route was simple enough. Straight down my street, I had to reach the tram station, get in, and it would take me exactly to where I needed to go. The GP told me to carry a lot of coins, because I would require them to purchase my ticket, and to take a full day ticket, which is like a whole days pass to travel by the trams.Good enough. I start walking, miss a couple of stops, and end up walking a lot of extra distance getting to the 3rd closest one to me. Wait for the tram, it comes, I get in, and then I don't know how to get the ticket. To me, a bus has a conductor selling tickets, and he asks you what stop, tells you the fare, you pay him, he gives you the ticket. And that's it. But in a country that is far too technologically advanced for the half-witted me, and where manual labour pays more than blue collar jobs, there was no conductor. There were some validation machines, but I had nothing to be validated. Feeling like a complete fool, i went to the driver and asked him for a ticket. he told me to go to the big machine at the back and get it. I go back, and still don't spot it easily. All this time I am holding onto the BB's hand, balancing his stroller, and hoping for dear life that I don't fall in the moving tram and look like a complete fool. So I manage to find the machine, enter the numerous details it needs, some based on pure guess work, and it asks me to put in the required amount in the slot machine.I did not have enough change, so ended up paying a few cents extra. Got my ticket and went and sat down. Called up the GP to boast about my great triumph at managing all of this too. And thank the lord who looks after children, that BB managed to be too happy/overwhelmed/ashamed of being with an inept woman for a mother, to not get upset or want something, or do anything crazy. I had to get off at the last stop, so that definitely did not need much of a genius I figured, and relaxed into my seat. The BB happily looking out of the window, I picked out something to read.
What I did not know then, was that this was just the start of my adventure. A few stops along the way, climbed in too men. I did not see them, because I was too deep into my reading, I just realised that someone came and sat in front of me, and adjusted the stroller, to make better space. Look up to see a man, who wore nothing on the upper half, was sweating like a pig and was constantly hitting himself. Before I could register it all, his friend pulled him up, he touched my head and walked off. Wow! I did not even realise what happened. I don't think anyone else on the tram cared, and as long as he went away, I kept quiet. But this man was mad, he got upto all kinds of antics post this, and pretty much all other passengers were upset. And then suddenly an announcement, saying the next stop would be the last stop, and the tram would not go further. It did not seem like a final stop or the end of tracks, and I was confused, but got off the tram with everyone else. And realised it was somewhere in the middle, there had been an accident ahead, and the trams could not go any further. So what do you think I do? I had no idea where I was. Fun is it not, first day out on my own, and I don't know where I am. I asked around, and a sweet guy, forthcomingly came forward and told me that I just needed to walk straight ahead for about a kilometre and I would get to where I needed to be. And that is how, walking down the road, I reached my destination
The return was a lot better, because the journey itself was uneventful, except that I got off a few stops too early. Waited at the same stop, for the next tram, hopped on and got off where I need to, and then walked back home from there.
And then the very next day, there is some more travel fun. I visit a friend's place for lunch. She is about two kilometres from my place, and so I walk down, have some lunch, chat up and leave. I strap the BB onto his pram, plug in some soul rendering music from Wake Up Sid, into my ears and start to get back home. And what do you know after about twenty minutes of walking I realise I have no idea about where I am. Pancic. Panic some more. Look around. A board with the street name. Uh-oh! I did not take the first turn I had to, and continued unabated on the street on which my friend lives. Can I please blame this one on Shankar Ehsaan Loy, because their music just left me day dreaming, humming along? Coming back to my predicament, I realise that I just did not want to walk all the way back now, because that would mean first covering back these twenty minutes and then another thirty minutes or so to home. I spot a bus-stop nearby, call my friend, get the details, and wait for the bus. It comes, I get in, again problem with the ticket. There is no ticket vending machine in the bus. Here, I have to buy it from the driver. I ask him for one, he is rude, and tells me to carry change next time. I tell him, I had no plans of taking a bus today. I tell him what stop I need to get off at, and go and sit. When we start nearing my stop, I stand up, only to see a big 'No Standing' written on the floor. All confused, I sit back down, thinking he would stop it at the stop, esp since I have told him where I need to get off. Well what do you know? He does not stop it, I go running to him and say, "I had to get off there", and pat comes the reply, "Well, you missed your stop." and he just goes on. Normally it would have been ok, but missing my stop, which is the last one on my street means, I go across the highway/freeway to the next stop. That means I cannot walk back, and have to again take a bus to get back to my stop. So I get off at the next stop, and so does an older man with me. I look across the street, and there is no bus stop there. So? How do I get back. I ask the man, and he tells me, buses going either way, come on the same side at this stop, and he told me which one to get on. Then he nicely looked up the time table, and his watch and said the next one might take a while, basically 15-16 minutes. He knew what happened back in the bus, because he was sitting upfront, and I guess he is a regular traveller of that bus, because he told me, that particular driver was a bit rough and rude. I thanked him profusely and he went his way.
And you would think it was just one stop now, and I was home right? No! I took the right bus, but gave wrong stop-name. Know why? Because the names of the stop on one side of the road do not match those across, basically because they are the names of the streets which lead inside. And how was I to know that? The driver this time round, however was a pleasant man, and he stopped at the next stop for me, which meant a little more for me to walk, but I reached home all the same,just a little worse for wear. So that was how my first two attempts at going places in my own have turned out. Am I daunted? Hell no! Because I have learnt, some, and I am sure I can do a lot better next time, and only if I keep doing it, will I get the hang of it isn't it? Surprisingly though I have never got lost, or gone the wrong place ever before, not even when I was new to Bombay and had just started traveling on my own, local trains and all.
A few things that I really liked, during these two trips, was that people around the place are very forthcomingly helpful when they see you with a child. Getting onto public transport with a stroller, and a child, would invariably mean people would help without even asking or expecting a word of thanks,. It almost seemed like a norm. Coming from Bombay locals, where heavily pregnant women stand through long journeys in crowded trains, and young students or women who have been there themselves, just sit in their seats, not giving relief to the women for a second, this was really amazing to me. A man even offered me his seat in the tram, when I was returning, since it was quite crowded and I was with the BB. When we were dropped off mid-way, because the trams could not go further, I was all bewildered, and even without me asking, people came and asked me where I wanted to go, and offered me directions. The guy who really guided me in detail, was an Indian, I believe a student out with his friends, and he did so his own, without my asking. I mentions Indian here, because I would never expect teh same courtesy back in India, atleast not proactively done. And that was indeed nice.
Just wanted to share my crazy adventures on the blog, and hence this overly long post!