I've spent a fair bit of time on public transport. Trains, trams and buses, I know them well.
From transporting me to my uni classes (90 mins bus ride from the Adelaide Hills... not for the faint hearted or motion sick!), to my work 15 mins away (oh the bliss of the short trip!) and now the tram ride into Melbourne, public transport and I make a pretty regular acquaintance.
As nurses say, nursing would be easy without doctors or patients. Teachers claim teaching would be easy without students (or principals...)*. I claim that public transport would be the best if it weren't for...well...the public!!
But it doesn't have to be this way. If we all followed the same, simple guidelines for how to behave in this shared space, public transport could definitely become something more tolerable. And, by the way, this is going to be a little Melbourne-centric; and tram-centric (hey, they say to write what you know...). It might even be a bit snarky. Consider this therapy for my many years of transport experience.
1. Waiting to get on the tram/train: Stand aside
I'm sure there's a rule of physics for this, but I'm no scientist. Put simply; you can't get on until other people get off the vehicle (I know, it's bordering on rocket science, but I'm sure we can grasp this concept together!). DO stand to the side of the doors. DON'T stand in front of them. Even three feet back. If you're in front, you're in the way.
2. Getting on the tram/train/bus: TOUCH on
MYKI, Melbourne's ticket system, is a little touchy about this. Specific, even. So
when you get to the card reader, just do one thing. TOUCH your card. Don't hover, wave, flip, rub or tap it. TOUCH. And get familiar with when you need to touch off. Tip: if you're on a tram, it's unlikely you need to touch off.
3. Sitting nicely
Take the inside seat first, if it's free. I know you want a quick exit from the aisle, but it does muck up the flow of seat allocation as the tram/train gets fuller. Actually, this is another brainwave of mine; imagine if planes, rather than loading passengers by aisle, did it by seat letter. So all the window seaters get on board first...then middle seaters... then aisle seaters. So much sense to be made!! (Jetstar, Virgin, Qantas, I'm happy to sell this idea!)
Further, on sitting nicely, this one's for the gentlemen in the audience. I'll keep it simple: Your legs belong in your space. Please do what you can to keep them there.
4. Beware your baggage
Ok, there a couple things to note here.
(a) Your bag does not get a seat. I don't care if you paid $6000 for it in Italy, but it goes on the floor (tucked under your legs) or in your lap. Keep it in your personal space, peoples! Unless you buy that bag its own MYKI and pay for it, it stays with you!
This is a dual sin if you sit on the aisle seat AND have your bag on the inside seat. Thus forcing people to interact with you and ask you to move your precious cargo so their even more precious cargo (themselves) can enjoy the pleasure of sitting on a seat.
(b) BACKPACKS SHOULD NOT STAY ON YOUR BACK! Students, I'm looking at you, you are the worst offenders! Particularly because you're usually standing, and the bulk on your back means that you take up the standing space of TWO people! It's hard to get past you at the next stop, and I'm sure you've clocked someone in the head many-a-time without realising (or apologising). Take that sucker off and refer back to point 3, subsection (a).
5. Move along, move along
In the busy times, it's necessary for many people to stand. The tram will become hot, overcrowded, and you'll probably end up with someone's armpit in your face (slightly tolerable in the morning, like death in the afternoon!). But as more people cram on, there's a simple rule to follow: move along! No one has a claim on personal space in this instance; if you're not uncomfortably close to someone, you're doing it wrong (and probably copping some mad stink-eye at the back of your head!). To paraphrase a forgetful little blue fishy; Just keep moving, just keep moving.
Look I have to leave it there. And I haven't even touched on body odour, loud phone conversations, acceptable earphone volumes, or suitable eating material. Keep an eye out for my next list of simple guidelines: how to set up a tea/coffee station that flows in one direction. It's going to revolutionise church fellowship times all over Australia!
*As the daughter of a principal, I say this purely tongue in cheek. Hi, Dad! Love your work!
Sarah Urmston is based in Melbourne and shares a 5x7m flat with her husband, Stephen. She works with RMIT Melbourne's Christian Union group as an apprentice, and loves the privilege of sharing Jesus with the students. Since beginning student ministry, her desire – nay – need for coffee has grown exponentially.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html