A wrong day right

It was one of those days where nothing seemed to go my way, but not just my way, everyone’s way.  One of those Monday’s where everyone in the city wakes up to a dark grey sky, rain pouring down, and would much prefer to roll over and go back to sleep than crawl out of their damp soggy bed’s and make their way through the miserable rain to work.

It was still dark when I slumped out of bed.  Sam continued to snore lightly beside me despite the fact that the alarm had been chattering away at us for the past 40 minutes.  Today is a day that will go down in the history books as Kevin Rudd challenges Julia Gillard for the position of Prime Minister of Australia.   I am reminded of this by Tom & Alex, the two boys who wake me up each morning via the Triple J morning show.  Their voices coming to life and lifting me out of my subconscious state at 6:00am with their bright and sunny Sydney “Morning’s!!” and talk of Gig’s and live shows around the country.  I learn later via a link on Facebook posted by a high school friend in Canada that Kevin Rudd has lost the challenge and Julia Gillard gets to keep her job.

I am hot and sticky but feeling too lazy to have another shower.  Didn’t I just shower before bed last night?  The rain always brings a muggyness to Melbourne that brings back memories of my days in Asia where it was muggy all the time.  I always seem to move through life at half speed when it’s this hot and sticky.   I throw on the first clothes I find that are suitable for work and carry on getting ready.  I feel that since I work in the beauty industry at present, I should at least try and use some of the product I’ve gotten from work and do something about my uncontrollable hair and panda eyes.  Sam has finally become conscious at 7am.  He hears the heavy rain outside and in his half asleep state offers to drive me to the station.  I am grateful for the offer.

The train is more crowded than usual, and the windows have slightly fogged up as we travel fast along the tracks before coming to a complete stop metres from Richmond station.  It seems our train driver was a bit heavy on the throttle and we have caught up to the train in front of us.   We sit there waiting, minutes feeling longer than what they are as the air thickens in the car.  Someone around me smells like half digested cereal, the bar I am holding onto tightly is slightly sticky.  I am relieved to finally get off this train.

At Prahan station I meet a colleague and we get so caught up in our conversation of weekend adventures that we don’t see the looming large puddle.  It’s not until we are ankle deep in the warm water we realize we’ve just walked into a sidewalk swamp.  3 mini swamps later and we have pretty much stopped caring about our soaked feet and laugh when the other steps in yet another brown puddle first.

I walk into the office and sit down at my desk.  The office is hot, even hotter than outside and eerily quiet.  I realize the air conditioner has not been turned on.   I take off my soaked shoes, clean the mud off my feet and start my day barefoot.  I am on my way to the printer only to find it offline. Upon returning to my desk I have learned 3 things.

  1. That the carpet at work is the kind of carpet that little pieces of staples and other sharp things gets easily caught in, and not so easily sucked up by the cleaners nightly vacuuming job.
  2. The carpet is so rough my damp sensitive feet feel like they have rug burn after walking from one end of the floor and back.
  3. My Email has finally loaded and there in my inbox is a message to all staff: due to the aircon being broken, all non-essential IT services running from the over heating server room has been shut down, and this includes the printers.

I pull my feet up to sit cross legged so that nothing more could hurt them, and only leave my desk to fetch myself some lunch at 1:00.

My day continues much the same, as does all of those around me.  We all seemed to accept that today was just one of those days and we left each other be.  My office is normally a bustling busy place with workers darting here and there, and phones ringing constantly.  But today it remained quiet, everyone was in the same solemn weather reflecting mood and we stuck to our desks and didn’t travel far.  The rain continued to fall outside and the sky stayed dark and dreary.

I left work at 5:00 and caught the train to Richmond.  Richmond station was in chaos as part of the power was out on my train line and so they were unable to announce on the overhead screens which train was coming next.  The slightly hoarse announcer was announcing as quickly as he could which stations the express trains were stopping at as they pulled up.  While I waited for a train that stops at Surrey Hills the screens continued to be black and unhelpful.  Most express trains don’t stop at Surrey Hills, but when they do, they are crammed full with everyone squeezing into the front two carriages so that they don’t have far to walk when they get off, especially when it’s raining like today.

I am back to back, bottom to bottom with a girl, shoulder to shoulder with two others, and my handbag I am tightly clinging onto is digging into the back of the man in front of me in a red pin stripped shirt.  I can’t move.  He is tall, so tall I can only see is his shirt.  I notice the white has faded, it is not a new shirt.  I smell someone’s breath, sweat, and the hot dampness of the carriage.  We are ploughing along when all of a sudden the train comes to a fast and sharp halt and we all gasp while flying forwards and land on each other.  This is followed by urgent shuffling and muttered sorry’s.  Australian’s are a polite lot, in Asia people would accept that it just couldn’t be helped and focus on getting back upright.  We hit the jagged tracks at Burnley and we are hurdled right, then left, then right again.  At Camberwell we are thrown in all directions.  My right foot lands on something, an elbow digs sharply into my side and someone’s high heel lands on my left toe.  I am glad my damp shoes are thick and not open-toed.  As we recover ourselves by shuffling our bodies off of each other, we are able to get a glimpse of each other for the briefest of a moment.  An Asian woman gives a slight chuckle, another smiles at her reaction, we are all glimpsing around at each other at the same time as we shift and move, while the train sways and we all have the same “It’s one of those days, it’s been non-stop all day, there is absolutely nothing we can do to change it, and we’ve plain and simply just accepted it” look.

I realized that normally on a train that crowded, I hear grumbling, complaining, huffs of impatience, or annoyance.  But today my cramped train car was quiet just as my office was.  Sometimes days are just so miserable and dreary, that the mood of it all settles over the whole city like a soothing blanket, and we all accept it without much fuss or complaint as just another part of life, and get on with our lives.  So much today went wrong, and yet it all felt acceptably right.

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Being Human

I awoke earlier than usual to a clear blue sky, a tiny hint of autumn lingering in the air, waiting patiently for summer to finish up and head north for ahwile.  I decided to catch the 8:06am stop all stations train towards the city so that I could enjoy a seat and the time to read as I have grown weary of the 8:11 direct express train which I have crammed my way onto so many a rushed morning and hold onto a railing for dear life to prevent myself from landing on top of the person next to me as the swaying train moves along the tracks.

A few chatty school girls sat to my left fiddling with their school bags whilst talking about all the things their teachers let them get away with this week because it was their first week back to school after a long holiday.  In front of me sat a very proud looking Vietnamese man dressed in simple attire sitting next to his small son dressed in an oversized Melbourne High School uniform with the emblem of a unicorn on the pocket.  It seemed certain on the man’s face that this land of opportunity that we live in had brought him fortune by awarding his son with entry into the most prestigious government boys high school in the state,  thus providing the boy with a chance for more opportunities than he could ever have in Asia, as it had done for my own partner who attended that school so many years ago.

The night before I had been exploring the topics of togetherness and separation, of uniqueness and oneness, and tried to get a better understanding of human nature.  We all look different, we all act different and talk different.  We all see things different, and experience things differently.  I sat on the train and noticed the school girls all wearing the same matching blue and white high school uniforms, each with unique hair styles, faces, voices, and ethnic backgrounds.  We all have such different stories to tell, and yet we are all human with bodies, emotions, and a voice.

At Richmond station I got off the train and walked down the ramp to the tunnel below that connects passengers to the other platforms.  I rounded the corner on my way to platform 2 to catch the Sandringham train and came face to face with a tall thin man a few years younger than myself.  We made eye contact as I stepped to my left at the very same time as he did as well.  He had a kind gentle face, and was wearing a plain collared shirt and trousers, clearly a man who works at a fairly typical Melbourne office.   I did not loose eye contact with him as I stepped to my right at the very same moment he did.  We both stepped back to the left as if in a choreographed dance to silent music  that we had both memorized in another lifetime and followed on queue.  Then we both paused and stood still, looking at each other questioningly as we waited for the other to decide on their next move before deciding where to step next but seeing only that yet again we had made the same decision at the very same moment.  Our two faces broke into a wide smile, and then cracked open to reveal a happy laugh that echoed through the tunnel as we stepped each to our own lefts gracefully around each other and continued on our way.

As I walked towards platform 2 I couldn’t help but marvel at how different him and I were.  Two complete strangers, different ages, backgrounds, heading in opposite directions and yet for a brief moment, we were exactly the same, responding to a situation in exactly the same way.  It was like my core human instincts were briefly aligned with this man as we gracefully moved in the same direction without much thought at all.  It made me realize that despite all the external differences in appearance and style, and the feeling that most people don’t truly understand us, as humans we really do have our moments when we are exactly the same as someone else, even if just for a brief moment, thinking the same thoughts, going through the same motions, or feeling the same way.

It made me realize that we are actually alot more alike than we think we are.   We may believe we are very unique, but we have alot in common too.  We are after all, human, and there really is only one species of us.