Thursday, July 16, 2009


A few weeks ago after attending a meeting in the city I caught a late night train home. That’s always an interesting experience because there are often drunken and drug addled people who also tend to travel around at night.

This particular night a bloke got on and it’s fair to say that he was under the weather. He confirmed it when he sat next to a young lady and started chatting to her admitting he’d just finished a long lunch with a client.

Now the train for me is somewhere I cocoon myself, relax and read a book, for the most part oblivious to things that go on around me. I’m not interested in other peoples conversations or hearing about their lives but occasionally there are sometimes things that are so distracting happening that the cocoon is breached. This bloke was one of those distractions.

The poor young girl next to him put up with being told about Sylvio Berlusconi and his marital exploits. Not content with discussing old news he proceeded to tell her his life story – he was a CPA and currently in charge of his practice because the boss was away; he did more than 300 BAS statements every quarter and been out to lunch with his largest client; he was widowed ten years ago when his wife died aged 50 and he was only 48 at the time; his three children, a thirty year old daughter and 28 and 25 year old sons still all lived at home; he was thinking of subdividing his block building a small two bedroom place on the front part and forcing his kids to move out; and on and on.

None of this was in the least bit interesting, I’d listened to enough drunks over the years to be less than inspired, and he was less interested in conversation than talking anyway. Try as I might I could not tune out. He grew up in a small country town called Drouin where Collingwood footballer Dale Thomas came from; life was different when he was a lad; and the drone continued through 13 raliway stations.

Unfortunately, there was track work going on and that meant that we had to change from a train and travel the last few stations by bus. Now, my cocoon in tatters, I did my best to avoid this bloke, but he sidled up to me and decided that it would be a good thing to talk about football until the bus arrived. So we did and when the bus finally did arrive I held back and let him get on first so I could choose where I wanted to sit that would allow me some peace and quiet. That worked until he saw a lady seated by herself in front of me and he decided that he could strike up a conversation with her. And then I learnt about her life as well – born in London, been in Australia for 30 years, divorced, living in a one bedroom flat and occasionally has a meal with the landlord who cooks for her, but the problem is he then expects her to reciprocate; lived in Darwin and Brisbane for years before moving to Melbourne; and so on. They had a great time together for those four stations.

Wednesday morning as I again was sitting reading my book and the train began to gradually fill I found my personal space invaded. There is an unwritten protocol on public transport that you spread out us much as possible and then gradually fill in the space as it becomes more crowded, but on this occasion despite there being plenty of empty seats this bloke sat right next to me and said good morning. I glanced up and found, much to my unease, the very same widowed father of three CPA who I had run across a few weeks ago.

So I buried my head in my book and he settled back to read the big paper until a young lady filled the seat opposite him whereupon he chose to strike up a conversation with her. This time the theme was cousins; Australia and England hate each other at cricket, but we’re cousins; New Zealand had an imperious batsman a few years ago called Martin Crowe and he happened to be the cousin of Russell Crowe although he wasn’t sure how old either of them were now; Australia and New Zealand hate each other at sport as well and would even compete heavily at tiddlywinks despite the fact that we’re cousins you know; and Australian fast bowler Bruce Reid, who also excelled at basketball as a youngster and played 100 games of AFL football as a Junior was actually the cousin of Kiwi batsman John Reid.

And on it went. Occasionally the young girl what mutter stuff like “Is that right” or “That’s amazing” whilst giving a stifled, forced giggle at his jokes. I tried to catch her eye and give her a knowing wink to let her know she wasn’t alone, but I don’t think she wanted to make eye contact with anyone else on the off chance that they would wreck her cocoon as well.


suzen said...

Here in the US, everyone plugs into their Ipod and nobody talks anywhere any more - maybe you should get one? Even if you don't turn it on and just want the quiet, the earplug may be good insurance that no one will bother to try to talk to you.

Recent blog post: Wounded Warriors, Love & The Chain of Pain

KayDee said...

Sounds horrific. I pretend I'm asleep if I get a chatter next to me on public transport.

Guest said...

Now I think it is intereting learning about people. I really do! I like hearing stories. And sometimes people have no-one else to share with so they open up with anyone who will listen.

A random encounter can change a life. It truly can.

And by you listening to someone's ramblings you really have no clue just how important that may be to that (often lonely) person.

Of course I am not saying not to be careful. After all is someone is drunk or drug affected there can be a danger, but often times (probably most times) encounters like this can be quite fun and very funny.


basbuddy said...

Hi guys, we're currently looking for beta members for a product we're developing that is aimed at the problems you're talking about - namely that everyone hates BAS time.

Product is called BAS buddy and can be found at

We're looking for small businesses who are looking for a BAS related solution to automate data entry of their receipts with the added feature to allow them to pay their bills if they nominate a bill to be paid. One BAS buddy account will handle all these things. Come BAS time, the GST figure is already there for you to complete your BAS rather than spending hours wading through and recording receipts and adding up all your GST.

We'd welcome anyone who would like to try out the service for free and add feedback for improving it as we go.