Proctor : March 2017
63 PROCTOR | March 2017 Mornings on the run But afternoons are for training As regular readers will know, presuming their medication is not one which affects memory, I run to work several days a week. I do this in part because it is supposed to be good for the environment, although what help the environment gets from me sweating my body weight all over it every morning is not immediately clear. There are obviously health benefits – for a start, laughing is apparently very good for you and few people can watch me run without becoming hysterical to the point of incontinence, especially as I suspect I am often trailed by an ambulance full of paramedics taking bets on when exactly I will collapse. The fact that I run at the approximate speed of the plot of The Bold and the Beautiful doesn’t help (this show moves so slowly I suspect that, even though I haven’t seen it since 1989, it is ‘the next day’ and Ridge – whose face now looks a lot like a thong covered in Glad Wrap and stuck in the microwave for five minutes – is trying to decide whether it is wrong to re-marry Brooke because he is simultaneously her ex-husband, brother, stepson, cousin and father-in-law). If you have never watched this show, it is clear you didn’t study law in the ’80s, because it came on at lunchtime and was perfect study-avoidance fodder. Actually, thinking on that, it is possible you did study law and just got good marks due to not avoiding study. For younger readers, ‘study’ is a thing you had to do back in the days before your iPhone could do your assignments for you, and we had ‘exams’ where we had to prove our legal competence by reproducing enough of the textbook in the exam to ensure that our answers were too long for the lecturer to read, at which point he or she would write ‘65%’ on the exam and head for the Campus Club. Now, of course, you have take-home exams and I suspect there is one person doing everybody’s exam – and in the process making more money than they ever will in law. However, I digress; the point is that I do run to work some mornings, but due to the fact that my knees have all the flexibility and robust strength of the ones they occasionally pull out of Egyptian burial chambers, I can’t do the run home. This means I have to subject myself to public transport, and in the case of afternoon travel this means the train. I take the train in the afternoons based on an in-depth process whereby I have calculated the relative costs of the bus and the train, their overall carbon footprint and the fact that the train station is much closer to my office than the bus stop (NB: Not all of these factors were weighted equally in the calculation). The problem is that I am unused to the train and train travel etiquette has changed since I was last a regular user, back in my student days. Trains were very quiet then, mostly because almost nobody ever managed to actually catch one. This was because trains in those days had a quantum-inspired timetable, in which no train would ever arrive at the station at the same time from day to day. And just as you can’t know a quantum particle’s speed and position at the same time, you could not know the train’s arrival time and the actual station at the same time; all you could be sure of was that it would most certainly not arrive at the time specified in the timetable. This meant fairly empty and quiet carriages, especially if you were a student and had no need to be anywhere at any particular time (you may be picking up on why I did not exactly make the dean’s honours list during my student days). Anyway, it is different now – much noisier, because everyone has a phone and many people feel that the details of their conversations are of such compelling gravity that all other occupants of the train should be made aware of them, in real time and with colour commentary (“She didn’t! In the theatre? Wearing the clown costume? And her mum was there? OMG! LOL!”). That isn’t the worst bit, though – the worst bit is getting on the train, because that etiquette has changed as well. In the old days, you lined up about where you thought the doors would be when the train stopped, and if you were right you got on first and people followed in the order of how close they got to guessing the position of the doors; it was sort of a reward for being pedantic enough to get the position right. Some of the older guys who used to catch my train regarded this as a serious sport, and would try to get to the station earlier than each other to get prime spot, glaring balefully at one another as if they were lining up for the 100-metre final at the Olympics, rather than attaching a deeply concerning level of significance to where they stood while waiting for the train. At least those guys had some honour about them though – they would never push past someone who got closer than them, and would probably hold an inquiry if anyone else ever did. These days, boarding a train is done with the same overall decorum as people display when attending the Boxing Day sales – people rush from all angles, as if Willy Wonka left a golden ticket under one of the seats. Anyone trying to get off the train needs to show the footwork of Johnathan Thurston if they don’t want to be crushed in the rush; I wouldn’t be surprised if JT catches trains in the summer just to practise his side-step. Once on the train, of course, anyone who doesn’t get a seat stays near the doors, knowing how little chance they would have to get off if they were standing in the aisle. This means that everyone is pressed up very close, and I can often end up standing cheek-to-cheek with someone who looks and smells like a Wookie that has been for a dip in a sewerage tank. It isn’t as bad as it sounds though, because I can usually read the news from someone’s iPhone, as well as see what their friends are doing on Facebook. That is pretty cool, as I am not one Facebook myself; now if I can just stand next to somebody who is friends with my friends... Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2017. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.