Thursday, August 05, 2004

Hazelblackberry: the merry-go-round by the sea

Dear Nick,

I quite like catching the bus to work. It takes just over an hour from the time I've opened my front door to the time I'm pressing - with a certain resigned sense of doom - the 'on' button on my computer. It's an hour-and-a-bit well spent observing my fellow humans and sometimes wondering who might be observing me (I don't really care; only, Lord, please let it be not in profile). I continue to be fascinated by the girl who can't stop rubbing her nose with her knuckles - back and forth across the nose she goes, getting more intense and manic the closer to the busport we get. Whoever ends up sitting next to her invariably spends a large part of the journey sneaking looks of fascination and/or irritation in her direction.

Wouldn't it be marvellous if we could just go up to people who were exhibiting strange behaviour (and who weren't obviously crackers) and say, "Excuse me, why are you behaving so fruitily?" And because it was perfectly okay to ask that question you would get, in return, a complete, information-rich answer that would reveal to you once again - just like that guy on SBS who goes up to people on the street and asks them questions about themselves - just how wonderfully interesting people are, if only we would take the time to find out. Also, sometimes you would get an answer wrapped up in a bunch of fives. Because you can't always pick the crazies.

(Actually, the thing about that SBS guy is that now lots of people know who he is and they come up to him trying to get on the show because they're just BUSTING to tell everyone how intriguing they are, which spoils it a bit. Did you ever see the episode where he interviewed Red Symons? Only maybe he didn't know who Red was. Red seemed somewhat befuddled and amused by this. Grumpy and I thought it was hilarious. But then we were the only two in a big crowd who guffawed, far too loudly, at the 2002 Brumbies awards dinner when Rod Kiefer emphatically announced that even though he was going overseas, he would one day return to Canberra where "I plan to end my career - and my life." We'd been drinking a bit at the time. But we watched Red sober, I swear.)

The bus I catch gets very busy. I get on early along the route, so I always snag a seat, a window seat at that. By the time we hit the freeway, things have become a little sardine-esque and all the foot passengers sway and lurch together like bite-size morsels packed in brine. I do admire the tenacity of those who get on at this point, day after day, armed with a book which they are going to read seated or standing, dammit. Gravity gets them every time.

After the regular bus, I get the CAT, which is free and tootles people round to various points of the city. I like the CAT, I do. It is sleek and smooth and low to the ground and makes lots of purring and hissing noises, just like a Big Cat. Yet like so many of the new and ultimately empty things that grace this fair city of ours, it replaced something older and shabbier, which we didn't realise we'd miss until it was gone. Before the CAT, there was the City Clipper. Doesn't 'the Clipper' have such a jaunty, nautical air to it? A spirit of adventure. And I tell you what, it was an adventure with the Clipper. There didn't seem to be any designated stops or timetables and you never knew whether one would come or not and when it did rumble into view, shrouded in a mysterious diesel mist, you were never sure where it was taking you. There were red, green, blue and yellow Clippers. Who cares! What did this mean to we urban freestylin' navigators? The Clipper was like some landlubbin' Flying Dutchman - next stop, Gilligan's (Traffic) Island!

Oh sure, the CAT has brightly coloured stops, it's reliable, quiet and relatively odour free - except for that one time, er, no, best not... But where is the charm and the spirit and the high-seas rollicking hijinks of the Clipper? Riding the Clipper made you want to don one of those peaked sailors caps that were so favoured by fans of Duran Duran in the 1980s. My friend Salamander wore one with great panache. She liked the New Romantics but I don't think she cared much for Duran Duran, come to think of it. Salamander was very cool and arty (of course) and she would, for no reason, write me letters filled with funny little illustrations telling me what happened to her on the bus ride home from school.

I wonder if she still has that cap.

Until next time, Nick.


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