On Friday evening, my elder son John was coming home for the weekend, so I drove to the train station at around nine pm in order to be ready to meet the 9.20 train. I like being a little early. I can stroll up and down the empty platform a couple of times and be in place when the train arrives. John always sends a text from Manulla Junction, which is the next stop up the track, so I know when he’s five minutes out. Manulla Junction may be the only train station in the world that you cannot depart from on foot. You have to get a train out. But that’s just a by-the-by.
When I know
the train is due, I leave the platform and go out to wait in the car park area
outside the station entrance. A lot of people get off the train and I like to
try to stay out of the way. But I don’t like to spend too much time waiting in
the car park because it tends to give me a problem. And that, friends, is mostly
what today’s post is about.
cars come to collect their people from the train and there are lots of car
parking spaces for them. But lots of people don’t want to use the car parking
spaces provided. They want to be as close to the entrance as they can be. They
want a minimum stay and a quick exit as soon as the arriving loved one is safely
installed in the passenger seat. They want to have it easy, and they don’t give
much a shit about what they do in order to have it that way.
where I’m going with this. You know me well enough by now, coming and going
from here, reading this stuff. You know what comes next.
in the disabled spaces.
There are a
number of disabled spaces right in front of the station entrance. I should use
a better name for them. Universally accessible spaces. I’m just guilty of
trying to get my point across in the simplest words possible. They’re not
necessarily the best words to use. Sorry about that.
people park up nice. Of course they do. Lots of people are nice. But a
startling number of people don’t. They back up and reverse into an accessible
space and they leave their motor running because, in their heads, that makes it
a little more okay. I’m pretty sure that I can see inside their heads. It’s not
rocket science. I can hear their justification. “I’m only staying for a
minute.” “I’m not even leaving the car.” “If a disabled person comes along, I
will move straight away.” “It’s only until the train comes.”
Nimrod, the spaces are only really any use when the train comes. Disabled
people don’t want to come to the station in the middle of the day to admire the
automatic ticket machine and drink a flask of milky coffee they prepared
earlier. They want to have their space when the train is coming or going, just
like you do. Except they need the space, and you bloody don’t.
evening, I got the Manulla Junction text and moved reluctantly to the front
entrance. Miraculously there was a vacant accessible space right there in front
of me. Not for long though. A low, black, heavily customised car pulled up and
reversed in. The young adult who was driving it left the motor running and the
oversized exhaust growled and leaked corrosive gas out onto where I was
standing. Shit music blared from the open window.
I did the
thing I sometimes do when things frustrate me, particularly car-related things.
I wished for a super-power.
and you may recall this, I wished for the power to stop time.
blog post back there somewhere about that. This time around, though, the
superpower I wished for was invisibility. Not the David McCallum kind. He had to whip off all of his clothes and a rubber mask to get invisible. Far too much
trouble. No, I wished for a Ben Murphy ‘Gemini Man’ type of invisibility. All old Pete
had to do was push a button on his watch and, bam, he was gone. That’s what I
needed. Push button invisibility. Then the medium sized crowbar I just happened
to bring along to the station would inherit my invisibility attributes and it
would vanish too. I would start at the rear taillight of the black car, right
above the toxic exhaust. Invisible as all-hell, I would draw back and smash the
taillight with my invisible crowbar.
little fantasy, the weedy driver would jump out of his car, not easily on
account of its lowness to the ground. He would shout ‘What the Fuck, man?’ in
an American movie voice at which point I would invisibly smash his other taillight.
‘Jesus!’ the weedy guy would scream, and I would have some invisible superhero
quip prepared to intone in his ear. “Okay, so you’re not disabled but at
least now your car is.” Not Shakespeare or anything, granted, but bear in mind
that this was an impromptu fantasy, and you can only work with what you’ve got
at the time.
It all begs
a question or two.
Why do I
get so angry at the people in the accessible spaces? And, let me be clear on
this, it isn’t just young Turks in customised rides who fill up these spaces.
There are mothers and housewives and grandads and young ladies. You name them,
they’ll take the space. And it makes me angry because it’s just another symptom
of how selfish and unsympathetic the people of the world generally are. And
maybe it’s just me but it seems to be getting worse and worse. People
increasingly care only for themselves. They are wrapped up in themselves such
that they don’t even see the terrible things that they do to others on a day-to-day
folks, was to be this week’s blog post.
I’ve been writing it, I’ve dug a little deeper in my head and two separate
thoughts arose and I think it's worth setting them down too, before I finally
is this: I’m bemoaning the selfish state of the people of the world yet my
ideal scenario, in that moment, was the smashing up of that person’s lovingly
restored car. It becomes clear to me that I am not up on some mountain of
excellence. I’m in no place to preach. All I dream of doing is exerting my own
will on the situation, regardless of any hurt I may cause as a result. I am
part of the problem, just like you are, and it’s best that I remember that.
secondly, and this may have occurred to you too because it’s a little bit
obvious: why do I need invisibility?
is parked in a disabled space. Why can’t I just go up to his window and ask
whether he would mind moving out of the space and leaving it for someone who
might actually need it? I don’t need invisibility to do any of that.
I just need
to be a bit brave. Yes, I may get shouted at. I may even get a slap but that’s
what it takes, isn’t it? To be a bit brave.
This is a
problem of mine and it’s probably good that I acknowledge it wherever I can. I
dislike conflict and will move several mountains to avoid it whenever I can.
Maybe that’s all very well and maybe it’s not but one thing is for sure: it
leaves me sitting firmly on the fence a lot of the time. If not in my head,
then certainly in my actions. Moments when I really need to stand up and say,
“Wait. This is wrong,“ rarely, if ever, happen. I tend to hide and wish for
invisibility because maybe from there I could be more of a force for good in
I need to
do better with all of this. I need to act as if I am invisible when actually I’m
Even if I
have to suffer some consequences as a result.