Metro, Nasi Lemak and Caroline Chisolm


Several months ago while on a work trip to Malaysia, I decided to visit Tress’ parents and my mum et al while I was there. I decided to catch a commuter train to Klang as the hotel I was staying in was only a few minutes’ walk to the KL central station. I expected the worst in terms of timeliness etc. but as I stand there waiting on the platform, almost 30 minutes later than the scheduled time, I messaged Tress to say I’d wait another 10mins at the most after which I’d jump onto a taxi. The train did eventually come but it was something like 40 minutes waiting without knowing if or when the train would come. That was my Malaysian commuting experience, less than 6 months ago.

This morning as I walked towards the ticket machine at Box Hill station, I started feeling uneasy as I saw commuters walking back, away from the station, as though they are changing their travel plans. I had heard on 3AW, as I was driving into the station, that the Belgrave Lilydale line has been disrupted and callers were sounding very frustrated. I thought and hoped however, that the disruption only affected stations between Lilydale/Belgrave and Blackburn. Blackburn had been closed for over a month while level crossing removal works were carried out and this morning was supposed to see it reopened to the public again. I had been using Box Hill the whole time Blackburn had been closed but I suspected it wouldn’t be all smooth sailing this morning so I had decided to keep using Box Hill this week.

As I waited at the platform and strained to hear the announcements, I became agitated. The announcements were more propaganda than disseminating information. The lady announcer carried on about the importance of safety and the merits of the level crossing removal projects, and further carried on about how everyone has had a tough 6 weeks adjusting to the Blackburn (and Heatherdale) station closures. Precious little about whether there would be any trains servicing Box Hill and the city.

After about half a dozen of these waffling insanities I had enough and went to the ticketing office to ask if there would be a train taking commuters into the city. I got the same waffle so I exploded. I looked at that dingbat of a lady and said, “Will there be a train taking commuters into the city soon?” She said she didn’t know and went on about inclement weather affecting track work. I said the rain wasn’t all that catastrophic in that we’ve had rain like that in Melbourne before and repeated my question. She again said she didn’t know so I asked did she have any idea how long it’d be before she could give commuters like me any idea of what to expect in terms of whether there would be a train to take commuters into the city anytime soon. Before she could answer I said I wanted a clear simple answer as all that waffle earlier hadn’t taken the commuters anywhere nearer the city nor had it advanced Melbourne Metro from the commuter trains in Malaysia. She looked at me with a pale face and I said to her not to worry and I walked away…

The train came eventually. Monday morning was a little different as a result but the tendency to waffle or to inject spin as a primary component of a piece of simple communication (train disrupted, apologies, next train due when, apologies if can’t tell when train will resume…) is a sure bet to stir anger and frustration.

It was a disruptive Monday morning but the weekend was good.

I had ended last week with what felt like an oncoming flu of sorts. Tress and I went to a lovely Malaysian restaurant in Bayswater on Friday night and because I was a bit under the weather, I felt queasy on the way home and had an early night of sorts.

On Saturday morning, after our usual leisurely coffee and breakfast at home, we went letter-boxing again. The ACL pamphlets carried an important message and we dutifully dropped them in homes nearby, in the Blackburn South area. We then went and got some groceries, mainly to cook for a dinner party at Jason and Mel’s later that night.

On the way home, Kiddo rang and spoke briefly about her first week at Caroline Chisolm college. It sounded challenging and I hope she finds a serene groove in this rough and tumble challenge of the socio-economic backwaters of ACT southern nether.

We then got home, cooked, vacuumed, and did other bits and pieces at home. When they were all done, I slumped into a bean bag and surfed Netflix before settling down to a trusty Marlon Brando/Al Pacino adorned mobster classic. I lost count after watching it for the 10th time some 10-15 years ago and it’s now a question of noticing nuanced twitch of Marlon’s face or Sonny’s shoulders or the annoyed look of Clemenza as he gave instructions of preferring a dessert over a weapon.

At Jason’s we feasted over a wonderful meal of nasi lemak – a la gourmet. We brought a chilli prawn dish and some pickled vegetables as well as some sliced cucumbers and enjoyed them with over a half dozen other dishes. The Hipos were also there, as well as a friend of Jason’s a lady who was there with her 14-year old boy who looked and sounded a music prodigy of sorts.

After church and Madam K on Sunday, we got home and I did a quick mowing and clean-up of the lawn, front yard, deck and driveway before doing the cook for the week’s lunches. Alex rang as I started to cook and asked if we’d like to join him for a drink with his new neighbours. I had to ring back later to say we couldn’t make it – just as well, as I was sitting down on the couch early in the evening (around 7pm), I quickly snoozed and drifted in and out of dreamland before heading to bed around 9pm. If only I knew what Melbourne Metro’s was about to dish out the next morning, I might have taken up Alex’s offer and called in sick this morning…

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