Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The idiot on route 96

I can't tell you about The Curmudgeons' Club. In fact I might even be breaking house rules by telling you that I'm a member and I've been to all but one of the meetings since the Club began. What I can tell you is that the meetings happen at lunchtime and that alcohol is sometimes consumed. After the last meeting, I took the 96 tram home. (I'm giving you far too many clues. You now know that the location of the Club is somewhere close to the 96 line. I may be punished for my transgressions.) Resentfully I approached the ticket dispensing machine and prepared to insert three dollars and eighty cents, a ridiculously high price to pay for a ride from South Melbourne to St Kilda. (Okay, so now you know the club is in South Melbourne. I'm done for.) But just before I inserted my gold coins, an inspector tapped me on the shoulder. I didn't have to pay, he told me, because the machine wasn't working. And sure enough, the machine's little window that normally tells me the ludicrous amount I have to pay to ride seven or eight stops, flashed those three magic words we casual commuters love: OUT OF SERVICE. According to the inspector, who was unable to sell me a ticket himself, the ride was free. There were already a dozen passengers who had shared my good fortune. Weren't we a happy bunch! The tram stopped at Middle Park. More people got on. They were about to put money in the machine. The inspector gave them the advice he had given me. He was a nice inspector. We liked him. Then we got to Fraser Street, just one stop away from St Kilda Station. A man in a beanie got on. The inspector gave him the good news. But the man must have thought it was a trick, or maybe he was just very, very stupid. Even though the machine was telling him that it was definitely OUT OF SERVICE, the man stuck in a two dollar coin. And the bloody thing started working again. The inspector looked at the rest of us sadly. The man's coin had somehow fixed the machine. We all had to buy tickets now. I've never before seen a beanie eyed with such contempt.
Please note I am not in favour of fare evasion. But if you're going to be overcharged to ride on a tram, even though the yellow ones on route 96 are particularly cool, enjoy your honest luck when you can. And if an inspector tells you not to put a coin in the machine because it isn't working, make sure you obey him. That's what inspectors are for.

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