Life would be very dull without drunks and n’er-do-wells. I was on my way to Richmond last night, and was sitting next to a great blousy pissed sheila with a heart of gold. You know the sort – she’d bailed up some man with a briefcase and was bellowing her life story at the top of her lungs – while he shuffled and ‘h’mmmed’ politely.
When I sat down, she was boasting about how she’d made it to Pension day without spending too much.
Chick: Ya nah, a pot’s only $2.60 at Hosie’s…and if you go round the corner to Young & Jackson’s….the same thing is $3.60!
Chap: Goodness me.
Chick: Fuck’n ripoff, mate. Although it’s pretty good down there – there’s all types. I met like a doctor today, two teachers, even some old guys who’d been in the war! Hah!
Then the young bloke opposite me scooted over to sit by the window. She whipped around.
Chick: Hey! You moved away from me because I’m not young and bewdiful didn’t ya? Didn’t ya?
I saw his Adam’s apple wobble.
Chick: Don’t crap ya self! I’m only playing. But you wouldn’t a done that twenty years ago, eh. Eh??
She dropped her quarry after he made more feeble stammers and mumbling noises. Then they moved onto Literature. At this point I pulled out my notebook and began taking notes, like I was at the inaugural lecture of the University of Hard Knocks. All the while praying she wouldn’t pick on me.
Chick: So we read To Kill a Mockingbird. I didn’t understand a fk’n word of it. Then Tim, and then we read Jonathon Livingstone Seagull – booring!
Chap (attempting to sound Literary): Did you ever read The Secret Diary Of Anna Frank?
Chick: Nuh. But we did do I’ll Cry Tomorrow by Lillian Roth. Me grandmother gave it to me – she was an alco, too. I bawled buckets at the end.
The rest of the tram was agog by now.
Chick: Yeah, I hate reading books that aren’t real.
Chap: Oh, yes.
Chick: I got a real problem, me. I’ll black out, and won’t remember what I’m doing. Then I’ll call me Mum and I’m on Burwood Highway. And I won’t even know how I got there! I think she’s a bit sick of it.
Chap (faintly): Heavens…
Chick: Yep, I’m borderline!
Then she leaned over and started whispering to him in a hoarse undertone. The rest of the tram strained as well, but all we could hear was “dry”, “fucked up”, “my friend’s kids” and “once a month I go mental”. Then as she got off, she started shouting again.
Chap: You should write a story of your life.
Chick: Nah, mate. No-one would believe me. My ex ran me over you know! The Aboriginals got me on to the wine and spirits!
Then the doors clanged shut and we watched her bowl away arm-in-arm with her mate. The tram collectively re-inserted its iPod. I think this kind of diversion is almost worth the price of a ticket.