Commuter Diary Blog 1
On the Bendigo line, the train journey from Castlemaine in central Victoria to Melbourne, the state capital, takes about 90 minutes. A large number of commuters make the trip, every day of the working week. This blog tells some of the stories.
“Morning,” utters our acquaintance, the word disappearing into a cloud of steam as we stood together on Platform One.
Castlemaine station’s premier platform is a long dark slab glistening in the freezing pre-dawn blackness.
“Morning,” we reply, adding a power station’s worth of steam to the biting air.
“Bit chilly, this one.”
“It is,” we agree.
Further conversation seems pointless. Around us gather pale commuters, singly or in knots of two or three. All are wrapped in dark robes. Some resemble doonas on legs. Many suck sustaining liquids from cardboard cups. The sulphurous lamps emit a feeble light, so the platform resembles a waiting room in one of the antechambers of the outer circles of Hell. At Commuter Diary, we gaze forlornly at the digital countdown clock, watching these useless seconds of our lives ebb away.
The astute reader will note an apparent mixed metaphor which draws a comparison between the below-freezing dreadfulness of the Castlemaine Commuter’s winter morning and the thermonuclear heat generated by Hell. We disagree. Who assumes that an antechamber of Hell would be hot? And we would note that less than one hour previously, we were horizontally encased in a womb-like doona. That, surely, is a Hell?
Back to the point. The train glides in, a comforting sight, with its promise of warmth, rest and daydreams before Melbourne looms. But first, we must negotiate the apparently lifeless forms of the peculiar species of northern commuter, known as the Bendigoloids. Bendigoloids are generally similar to the Castlemaine Commuter, with one important physiological difference – the air of V/Line carriages quickly renders them semi-conscious. It is only around just south of Sunbury, when the fumes of Melbourne permeate the carriages, that Bendigoloids begin to stir. They snort, scratch themselves, blink, and start to resemble functioning humanoids. Bendigoloids are mostly harmless, but the Castlemaine Commuter is well advised not to prod or poke their recumbent forms.
Commuters who are forward-thinking select seats facing the direction of travel. Commuters who believe that it is the past which makes us who we are, select seats which face the rear of the train. We at Commuter Diary are existentialist, and hence we look forward to the past. Thus we sit anywhere.
Castlemaine Commuters are a rugged lot. In the winter months, from Sunday afternoon through to the following Saturday morning, they do not see their houses in daylight. Week after week, month after month, they doggedly set about their commute. They extract largesse from the Great Southern Metropolis and spend it locally. In honour of these most worthy citizens, Commuter Diary is duty-bound to report on their working-day struggles. The way they fall asleep, their (mostly) cordial relations with other commuter species, and the eccentric persons and situations they encounter; Commuter Diary will reveal them all.
Castlemaine Commuters, we salute you.
This entry was originally published on the Castlemaine Independent website in 2013