Empire Service (Part II)

Transports of Delight

For long-time readers of this blog, you may remember a few weeks ago I told you a story from my travels in New York – the tale of the NYPD cop who helped me find my train when I was lost and deranged. You may also remember that I left a tantalising teaser at the end of that story, suggesting that it was not in fact the end. If you need a refresher, here’s the link to Empire Service (Part I). Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

… Doop dee doop …

Okay you’re back! Hello. You probably noticed that I ended that story with “Little did I know …” Classic cliffhanger. And I’m finally going to stop the dangling and drop you off the cliff. So to speak.

So we’re back in the year 2005, a magical year in history. It’s before Facebook but after Furbies. I have just boarded a train from Manhattan that will take me to Buffalo, New York. I am extremely frazzled and exhausted. But it was worth getting up early and all the dramas trying to find the train station – all of that was worth it because soon I will be reunited with my boyfriend. He’s staying with his relatives in Canada, and my plan is to catch the train to Buffalo, where I will then catch a bus to meet him in Niagara Falls.

As meeting places go, it’s hard to miss.

But, once I’m on the train, I discover something interesting. This train doesn’t terminate in Buffalo. In fact, the very next stop after Buffalo is Niagara Falls! (Why I didn’t figure this out when I was booking the ticket, I don’t know. I am nineteen and generally clueless.) So, I come up with a new plan, a cunning plan. I will simply stay on the train one extra stop, disembark at Niagara Falls, and step into the boyf’s waiting arms. Brilliant!

And it all would have gone perfectly, too, if it wasn’t for that damn fire.

I make it through the eight-hour journey from Manhattan – eight hours! – and when the train pulls into Buffalo I do not disembark. I stay in my seat, thinking about what a clever cookie I am. No messing around with buses in Buffalo – I’m cutting a whole leg out of my journey! As it turns out, I will come to regret this decision.

We pull out of Buffalo, and I get more and more excited. Next stop, boyfriend! But then, a considerable way outside Buffalo, the train suddenly grinds to a halt. Everybody on board is puzzled. From my window, there just seems to be a bunch of trees. I check with a service attendant; no, we haven’t reached Niagara Falls. This is not a scheduled stop. I wriggle in my seat, bitten with impatience. The train is supposed to be pulling into my destination in fifteen minutes!

I get a call from my boyfriend. He’s ringing from the payphone at the Niagara Falls train platform, where he’s waiting for me. I tell him that my train is mysteriously delayed, but I should be there soon. We don’t talk long, because we’ll be seeing each other in a few minutes anyway.

What a view.

Then comes the announcement from the train driver. As it turns out, there is an emergency up ahead. A lumberyard next to the tracks has caught fire, and firefighters are trying to put out the blaze. Everyone mutters with not a little anxiety. But it’s not the fire that stopped us – it’s the fire hoses. Because, apparently, the lumberyard is on one side of the tracks, and the fire hydrant is on the other. So the firefighters have to lay their hoses across the train tracks in order to fight the lumberyard inferno. The train will have to wait until the fire is put out before we can keep moving. I grit my teeth. Obviously we can’t run over the top of fire hoses, no matter how many boyfriends are waiting at the next stop. But I pray that this fire goes out quickly.

It does not.

I try to contact my boyfriend, to let him know what’s happening. But he called me from a payphone, so I can’t call him back. (I can’t remember why he didn’t have a cellphone, but he didn’t. I’ll just say it was because he was being purposefully difficult.) I imagine him waiting on that platform, expectantly looking for my train, becoming more and more concerned. The tension is killing me. Finally, he calls me from the payphone again, and I rush to answer my phone.

“Ohmygod I’msogladyoucalled ItriedcallingyoubutIcouldn’t mytrainisstuckanditmightbehours howareyou?!”

He is curt and obviously annoyed. “So am I meant to wait here for hours?”

“No noooo of course not, just go home and I’ll meet you there whenever I get off this train.”

He is not mollified. “Fine. Well I better go, this is costing me money.” (Spoiler Alert: he’s not ‘the One’.)

We hang up and I slump in my seat. This day is not turning out the way I’d hoped. I’m tired and gross from travelling all day, my boyfriend is irritated, and now my stomach is starting to ache. It’s been hours since I polished off my packed lunch, so I head up to the snack bar in search of food. They tell me that the dining cart is closed, but they can offer me a bag of chips. With a heavy heart, I pay for the exorbitant chips and head back to my seat. Meanwhile, the boyf is probably tucking into a hearty dinner at his aunty’s house. Jesus. Should’ve just gotten off at Buffalo.

After nearly three hours stuck at the lumberyard, the fire is finally put out and the firefighters remove the offending hoses. The train lurches down the tracks; I feel palpable relief in the carriage. We finally pull into the Niagara Falls station, and I yank my bags down from the overhead rack. I can’t get off that train fast enough.

At the station, I hail a taxi and head over the border into Canada. I don’t know where my boyfriend is staying or how to contact him, but after getting lost in Manhattan and spending 11 hours stuck on a train, this is the easy part! Okay so the reunion is going to be later than we thought, and we’re both going to be a lot grumpier than we thought, but this is going to happen. It is.

As the taxi winds through the darkened streets of somewhere in Canada, I’m glad to see the back of bloody Amtrak. Little do I know that it won’t be long before I’m back in the States, having more wacky train adventures. OH WHAT – I did it again! You thought the story was over but it isn’t! My New York train adventure still has another part to it. Guess you’ll just have to keep reading my blog, ‘wink’.

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This Banana Has Gone Bad

Transports of Delight

I always feel safer on a bus, don’t you?

I mean, when I’m driving, I feel the burdensome weight of responsibility. It’s just me, my frail body locked inside a thin metal shell, hurtling at unnatural speeds through chaos. If I lose concentration for even a second, I could cause immeasurable damage – to myself, to my passengers, to unwitting strangers. Car accidents are horrible, life-altering, and everywhere.

But riding the bus is fun!

I mean, buses just feel safer. They’re bigger, for one thing. There’s something comforting about riding in the biggest thing on the road. And they have have their own lanes. Everything about the bus has this “get outta my way” attitude. They cruise along at their own pace and don’t make room for anyone else on the road. Being on the bus is like being friends with your school’s biggest bully: you’re untouchable.

I used to tell myself that bus drivers are trained and therefore better drivers, but I can no longer follow that particular rainbow. If you’re still holding onto that misty-eyed illusion, just look at this photo again:

(I think they left “don’t read the paper while driving” out of the bus driver exam, because it should be bleeding obvious.) Nonetheless, I love riding the bus. Sitting high up in the back seats, I feel a little detached from everything that’s whizzing by my window. It’s as if all that traffic out on the road is happening to someone else. If I sped around corners and swung dangerously close to traffic light poles in my own car, my passengers would be justifiably anxious. When my bus driver does the same thing, I just think, “WHEEEEE!” Like it’s a fairground ride.

And when I was a kid, the best public fairground ride of all was THE BANANA BUS. Oh, the times we had! I used to love riding on the bendy buses, with the turntable in the middle that would creak and rotate when the bus went around a corner. I remember class excursions on the banana bus, when only the coolest kids would stand in the bendy bit. It was a crazy feeling, like being inside the accordion of an insane accordionist.

But my rosy memory of banana buses has been compromised. While perusing brisbanetimes.com.au this week, I found this:

BANANA BUSES TAKEN OFF THE ROAD

A safety check has ruled 300 articulated buses off Australian roads after a Queensland Transport and Main Roads-ordered audit.

… The bus order followed a dramatic crash on the Pacific Motorway on March 30, when an articulated bus abruptly turned and ended up facing oncoming traffic.

What? Crash? No! This is no good. Another layer of my childhood memories, peeled away like so much banana peel.

It’s as if catching the bus was a large, delicious-looking banana, its perfect yellow skin assuring me of the sweet fruit within. But when I went to peel it, I discovered that this banana was rotten. (Yes, the banana peel was my childhood memories in the last paragraph, but now it represents the act of catching the bus – it’s as if this change in metaphors is a metaphor for the dramatic change in my feelings when I realised that buses are not as safe as I thought.)

If banana buses (the funnest buses!) aren’t safe, then I might have to rethink my entire attitude towards bus travel. Gone are my comfortable illusions of safety. I will now ride the bus with an appropriate sense of barely-contained terror, ready to wedge myself under my seat at the first sign of danger. It’s a mad world we live in. A mad, mad world.

CityCycle

Transports of Delight

So Brisbane has this thing called CityCycle. It’s a kind of augmentation to public transit, with rows of identical bikes stationed all around the city. Each bike is locked to a metal post thingy, and can only be released once you type in your passcode on a computer thingy. (I’m getting technical here, don’t get left behind.) This week I gave CityCycle a try, to see if it could be a cheaper and more whimsical alternative to buses. I imagined the wind whipping through my hair as I cycled through Brisbane! The sun on my face! Oh, the nature!

OK, so the wind couldn’t really whip through my hair, because my hair was stuffed under an aerodynamic yellow helmet. But the sun on my face was lovely.

Mostly, CityCycle has been pretty good  For the price of two bus trips, I got a week’s worth of bike riding. And the bicycles themselves are pretty decent, although I don’t know how to adjust the seat height and therefore mostly feel like a large spider trying to use tiny pedals. The catch to the CityCycle thing is that the first 30 minutes of every journey is free, but if you keep it for more than 30 minutes you start paying dearly. The trick is to keep docking the bike at a CityCycle station every 29 minutes, and then re-hiring it. (Take that, system!) But basically, it’s not for long joyrides.

I rode a CityCycle to the shops yesterday, amid the frenzied Saturday crowds. And I became reacquainted with a rather unattractive side of my personality. See, here’s the thing: when I’m driving a car, I hate cyclists. But when I’m on a bike, I freaking hate motorists. It’s a convenient duality because no matter what I’m doing, the other people are wrong.

Cyclists. If you’re going to be on the road, claiming your status as ‘vehicle’, then you must be able to go the speed limit. If a car went ten kilometres an hour on a busy road and backed up all the traffic behind them, they would be arrested. Or at least, they should be. So, if you want to cycle on the road, at least approach the speed limit! Do this!

Motorists. Four wheels doesn’t mean you can be a douche-bag. Check your blind spots. Hi! That’s me there.

Being on a bicycle does tend to put you at a disadvantage on the road. The risk of injury is massively higher. (Which is why I was fear-mongered into wearing the hideous yellow, aerodynamic bike helmet. I tried to not wear it, but I just kept picturing a TV doctor gesturing to my brains smeared all over the bitumen.) Also, if you’re in Brisbane, there doesn’t seem to be any bicycle lane. Oh, there are cute stencils of bicycles all along the shoulders of the main roads, which seem to be indicating that this space is for cyclists. But the space between the parked cars on the left and the moving cars on the right is exactly the width of, oh, say, an open car door. It’s pretty easy to get ‘doored’. And while it looks hilarious in movies when Emily Blunt gets hit by cars, it is probably not that glamourous in real life. Probably. Maybe.

To surmise: I took a bicycle instead of the bus. I got all sweaty. My hair went weird. I yelled into some lady’s car window. And my groceries were knocked out of the basket by the uneven bitumen on the road’s shoulder. But, good lord, I felt alive! When it is an achievement to just make it home in one piece, your food tastes sweeter and the air seems fresher.

But next time I’m going anywhere where people will see my hair, I’m taking the bus.

 

Crazy Crutches

Transports of Delight

I’m six feet and one inch in height. That’s tall for a girl. It’s tall for anyone outside the world of competitive basketball. So I’m used to sticking out, to being noticeable. I’m used to people pointing me out like I’m a sideshow attraction.

I am not used to being accidentally sat on.

But this is what happens while I’m waiting for the bus. It is one of “those” days. I’ve just been shouted at by a bus driver. I’ve gotten on the wrong bus and had to get off again, and now I’m waiting for the right bus to appear so that I won’t be late for work. I’m feeling a bit fragile, a bit sensitive. There are empty seats on the bus stop benches. Sweet! I sit down with relief.

While I’m sitting there, recovering the shattered pieces of my ego, a woman hobbles into view. She’s about middle-aged, wearing several layers of clothing, and clearly a bit mad. She has one crutch in each hand, holding them out in front of herself like dual walking sticks. A younger woman darts at her side, like an anxious hummingbird.

The woman on crutches spots the benches and, with surprising speed, heads towards the empty seat next to me. Or so I think. Next thing I know, her butt is lowering itself into my face. She is saying “No, I need a seat with the arm rest on the left! On the left!” I angle sideways, sliding myself out of her trajectory just seconds before she plops down in my seat.

I stand next to my now-occupied seat, a little startled. I feel like Anne Hathaway inThe Princess Diaries.Before the make-over. The hummingbird woman murmurs an apology over her shoulder, leaning down to help arrange the older woman in the seat. Not sure what to do, I sort of turn on the spot. A woman sitting on a nearby bench catches my eye. She saw the whole thing. I can tell, because she’s trying not to laugh. I grin back at her.

And, out of the haze of this average morning, I feel it. Transports of delight.

Gif sourced from whendoiturnbackintoapumpkin.tumblr.com

VBA Part II

Transports of Delight

Nice shout-out from Nicole at NMNPHX, along with some good blog suggestions. Thanks Nicole!

NMNPHX

About a month ago,  Drew Kailnominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award (VBA). If you want to know more about the award, check out my previous post. Earlier this week, another blogger, Ranting on the Lolohas passed the honor unto this blog.  So I though this would be a good time to highlight some of the blogs on my blogroll and nominate a few more bloggers that I didn’t know about the first time a VBA came my way.

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Transports of Delight

Posts, Transports of Delight

It’s been a bit quiet on kaitlynplyley.com of late, mainly because I’ve been building up my micro-story blog, Transports of Delight. It’s getting a few likes, and has even been nominated for a blogosphere user award (the VBA).

Every Sunday I blog a new story about the unusual stuff that happens to me on public transport. Experiences range from being shouted at by mentally unstable passengers, to watching as my bus driver runs into a fire truck.

So please check out www.delightfultransports.wordpress.com, and leave a comment letting me know what you think!

Emergency Transport

Transports of Delight

Oh no! My dear readers, I have neglected you!

I feel terrible for not posting a story last Sunday, but the reason was that, well, I felt terrible. I’ve been having a heinous bout of illness – poor me, et cetera, et cetera. So here’s what happened last Sunday, when I should have been writing a post for ToD:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s gotten worse. I feel like I’m about to drop. I need to get to a hospital, but it’s gonna be a mission. I don’t have a car, and taxis are hideously expensive. My housemate’s away, and she’s pretty much the only person I know in this town, so no one can drive me. You might be thinking, hey, why not just call for an ambulance? Um, have you ever been in an ambulance? They scare me more than the actual hospital. Anyway, whatever method of transport I use to get there, it’ll be quicker than waiting for an ambulance. I google the closest hospital. It’s actually not far. Shouldn’t be hard to catch a bus there. But wait, there’s something I haven’t factored in.

The Brisbane Roar.

Yes, Brisbane’s A-league soccer team. They are playing Perth Glory in one hour, in the grand final. This worries me for two reasons. Firstly, Glory are the underdogs this year and I really want them to win so I can look these Brisbane bastards in the eye. (Still a Perth girl, through and through. If I have internal damage, I assure you it is bleeding purple.) Secondly, the stadium is right near the hospital. The roads are chaos, and buses are diverting to carry the orange army of Roar supporters to the match. I’m not likely to get a bus anytime soon.

I can’t face walking to the hospital. So, I dial the number for a taxi. The taxi arrives, and takes me to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. I limp inside the building, relieved to have made it. But something doesn’t look right.

The waiting area is … empty. The decor is … pleasant. Then the receptionist tells me that they don’t bulk bill, and I go an extra shade of pale. I’ve walked into a private hospital! Run, run for your life! Save your wallet! The lady assures me that, after a Medicare rebate, consultation would only cost a minimum of $200, but I’m already backing away. I find a sympathetic nurse and blurt out my troubles.

“Where is the hospital where the poor people go?”

The nurse directs me to a nearby hospital which does bulk bill. And, she says brightly, it’s only a ten-minute walk … uphill. I groan, and dial for another taxi. I stagger out to the street, feeling demoralised. Each short taxi ride is costing me a day’s worth of meals, and since I’m too sick to work, my income is severely limited. At least I can get to this hospital and get my health sorted out.

I’m on my last legs. I wait outside the hospital entrance, sitting on the concrete steps. A taxi suddenly zooms past. I wave at the driver, scared he might drive off without me. He slows, and crawls up the road at a snail’s pace. Now I’m confused. Is this my taxi? Or is he just sight-seeing? He creeps a bit further up the road, then stops. I pull myself onto my feet and head for the car. It’s an effort to walk, but I walk quickly to show him that I’m his intended passenger. As I get closer, the car suddenly jerks to a start and rolls further up the road. I wave, and try to close the gap between us. He jumps forward again and moves further up the road. It feels like that trick that you play when someone’s about to get in your car. Just when their hand’s almost on the door handle, you drive forward a few metres so they have to run to catch up. “Ha ha ha, so funny! You shoulda seen yo’ face!”

But I’m not amused. I have no idea what this guy is doing. Three times I nearly approach the car, and he creeps forward again. At last, I reach the car and fling the passenger door open.

“Finally caught you!” I wheeze, sliding into the backseat. The taxi driver just nods and says “Where would you like to go?” As if I hadn’t just chased him up the road. Okay.

I tell him which hospital, and we jump away from the kerb. As we pull out into traffic, it dawns on me. He wasn’t trying to play tricks. He’s simply a terrible driver.

This taxi is weaving, jerking and zipping all over the road. He steps on the pedals like a first-timer, speeding up to the backs of other cars, then slamming on the brakes right before we hit them. We swing around corners with reckless abandon. As I slide around in my seat, trying to hold onto my stomach, I’m not comforted to see the taxi driver tugging on his seatbelt. It looks like he’s checking that it will be strong enough. That can’t be good.

Oh well, I think. At least we’ll crash near lots of doctors. (I’ve achieved delerium.)

As we near the hospital, the taxi driver barks, “Whereyouwannago?”

“Emergency,” I get out, through clenched teeth. “Emergency!”

The taxi driver mumbles to himself. He’s probably trying to figure out if I was telling him I wanted to go to Emergency, or if I was just summing up our situation as we plummet through traffic.

Finally, we jerk to a halt in front of the Emergency Department entrance, and I tumble out of the cab. The taxi tears off around the corner, off to terrorise its next customer. As I wobble through the sliding doors, I feel a strange sense of elation. I’m not nervous anymore. I survived that taxi ride, didn’t I? Nothing in this hospital can scare me now. I am invincible!

Thank you, insane taxi driver. Thank you.

Condescending Santa Claus

Transports of Delight

Ugh, why do they do this?

I’ve got my Go Card ready to swipe, I’m getting on the bus in an orderly fashion, but the driver stops me. He has something to say.

I wait, wearily, standing with my bags full of shopping in the entrance of the bus. I think I know what’s coming, because I’ve become familiar with this routine. I’m about to get the “You’re An Idiot and Here’s Why” speech.

The bus driver barks at me. “Did you get off here for the markets earlier?” (This is not tricksy detective work on his part; I’m holding a potted fern in a plastic bag and a flyer for the Australian Greens.)

I look around. I’ve been walking around the area all morning, and I’m not sure which bus stop I used. “Um, yeah, probably.”

The driver laughs, but he says the laughs – “HA. HA. HA.” He is pleased to have identified my stupidity. His thick white beard shakes, making him look like a condescending Santa Claus.

“Dude,” – it’s weird hearing ‘dude’ from Santa – “I stop at the markets until twelve today! HA. HA. You could have gotten off there! I sang it out when we set off, didn’t you hear?” I stare at him. I wasn’t on his bus earlier.

Finally he lets me go, and I find a seat while the rest of the passengers watch me. This is so frustrating. I am still new to this town, so I already feel like a lost idiot most of the time. I appreciate when bus drivers offer friendly advice, but now they’re taking extra time to point out things I could’ve done better? Come on, dude!

This comes after weeks of bus drivers pointing out my idiocy. One driver, when we reached a stop, pulled the bus over with a wrench and turned to glare at me. “GIRL IN THE PURPLE SHIRT!” he roared down the bus. “THIS DOES NOT GO TO YOUR STOP! GET OFF HERE!” I thanked him with all meekness and immediately got up to leave. As I went to step off the bus, the driver held me back. “I TOLD YOU THREE TIMES! I SAID, THREE TIMES, THIS DOES NOT GO TO THE ‘GABBA! I TOLD YOU!” I repeated my thanks and quickly jumped off the bus, burning with embarrassment. I now realise that when I had earlier asked him politely “Does this bus go to the ‘Gabba?”, that mumbling sound he made was in fact the word “No”. Ah geez.

But I say to you, bus drivers, that you are not so perfect! Some of you run into fire trucks! And last night, I snapped this:

As soon as we reached a red light, the bus driver whipped out the paper and had a read of the news. Safe driving? Smart choices? Intelligent, well-balanced publication? No, no, and nope.

Bus drivers: 2.

Me: 1.

I’M FINALLY ON THE BOARD! Take that, bussies.

ToD gets a Versatile Blogger Award

Transports of Delight

Nicole over at NMNPHX has kindly nominated Transports of Delight for a Versatile Blogger Award! That is this humble transport blog’s first award, huzzah!VBA image, courtesy of NMNPHX.wordpress.com

I would like to say a huge thank you to Nicole for this unexpected compliment. I’ve been following her blog for a while and it’s well worth a read. She’s written a very handy post on the Versatile Blogger Award, if you would like to find out more about it. Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p1B9zn-8C

One of the rules of the VBA, I have been told, is that the nominee must share seven personal facts. So, here are seven facts about myself:

  1. My last car was named Jeff, and I loved him like a brother.
  2. I like to anthropomorphise things.
  3. I have a degree in English and Communication Studies.
  4. Sometimes, while on the bus, I hum to myself. Usually the Bed Intruder song.
  5. I once stood inside a rainbow.
  6. I have a human brother, and he deeply resented my last car.
  7. Transports of Delight was conceived after I performed one of my transport tales in Barefaced Stories, at Perth’s 2012 Fringe World festival. (My performance was featured on ABC’s 7:30 Report for precisely two seconds, in the background, with the sound turned down low. I am immensely proud of this.)