Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Connex and the Case of the Whiff.

So since I sold my car in March last year, I travel virtually exclusively by Train/Tram (mostly Train).

For those who never use them, Melbourne trains are changing. Since I started using them regularly about 8 years ago, they have changed markedly.

Weekend travel for instance. When I first started, the patronage can be best described as "Bogan Central". It really did appear that public transport at weekends was mostly bogans and drunks and rednecks. At least that's how it appeared to me. I didn't particularly like travelling by train at the weekend.

But as petrol prices have risen, and Melbournes population has grown, this appears to be changing, thankfully for the better. It's simply due to more and more people using trains at the weekends. People who never would have dreamt of it 8 years ago are now forced to either through economic circumstances, or it's simply easier to use the train. I know even if I did have a car (and this is one of the reasons I sold it) I would never dream of driving into the city, and certainly not parking there. It's much easier to jump on the train and get where I need to go.

Peak hour is another example. Again, due to rising petrol prices and other socio-economic reasons, patronage on peak hour trains has increased substantially. I always try not to catch a train after 8AM, as it's just Sardine City onboard. Also, trains seem to run on time (mostly) before 8AM, but after that, it's potluck if they are on time or not. If you have something you have to be on time for, it pays to leave with plenty of margin for lateness, delays sitting for what seems like hours in the Flinders Street Rail Yards, or the odd arrival at Platform 13 which requires a GPS and a knowledge of Stalactites to navigate.

The actual trip in however is fraught with peril. You have the crowd of St Kevin's schoolboys (who thankfully get off at Burnley). There's always the good old person on a mobile phone who seems to forget that most people don't care if somebody forgot to take the mince out of the freezer. And loud Ipod's are prevalent... though because most people have them, most people can't hear everybody elses. Heaven help the one poor sod who doesn't own an Ipod. (The Melbourne Reviewer does own an Ipod, but always tries to turn it down so that it's not audible to other commuters.)

But by far, the most annoying and offensive thing about travelling on Public Transport, at least to me, is The Whiff.

Last time I checked, there seemed to be an absolute plethora of Personal Hygiene products for sale at our supermarkets. There are also other merchants, such as chemists and pharmacies who sell soaps and body washes and things like that, all designed to keep the human body clean.

And, in my experience, most people do succeed. Not that I go around purposefully sniffing people, but if you are jammed up against others in a packed Comeng, it's always much nicer if you can't smell them.

Now, this is where I have to tread lightly. So I'll just say it. People of, shall we say, particular... extractions, well, the do tend to exhibit The Whiff much more so than those who aren't of those... extractions.

That's not to say you don't get it from all sorts. You do get the odd homeless dude who obviously hasn't showered since Big Brother 1 stumble onto the train in a seemingly genius effort to escape the city (though invariably he'll end up in a lockup somewhere out in the burbs).

But those of these particular... extractions, they do tend to emit certain unpleasant aromas on a more regular basis than others.

Recently we've had cab drivers and now oldies baring all at the Flinders street steps. Should we bare all for personal hygiene?

Would it be rude to loudly and jarringly say "Somebody on this train stinks!"? Who would be more embarrassed, me or the stinkee? Would it be offensive to carry a can of Rexona around for such emergencies?

Or should I just attempt to move away (as I have done in the past). Though on packed Sardine trains, this is easier said than done.

I guess in the end it just comes down to another one of the vagaries of Public Transport that you have to put up with. I'm not sure what conclusion we can come to except that we need to grin and bare it.

Meanwhile, beware of, The Whiff.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I would walk 100 Miles

So Saturday night we headed out for drinks and then dinner in the CBD, organised by our friend D. D is very adept at finding and locating Melbournes various trendy bars which seem to occupy the weirdest places. This one was pretty tame, occupying a basement, and it is called The Sweatshop.

We were there so early that for at least half an hour we were the only ones in the place. It's basically crates to sit on, which actually gives you a rather sore butt after a while (or at least it did for me).

The highlight of the venue (at least for some of us... I chose not to partake) was a rediscovery of the Lolly Waters of our youth, in particular West Coast Cooler. For some reason the idea of spending $5 on something that should be much cheaper was incredibly kitsch and so they were downed with much vigour. I chose a glass of Sparkling, and then a glass of some red wine which I didn't even identify, both were nice and got me in a rather happy mood.

Of course the West Coast Cooler Encounter (trying saying that repeatedly after having consumed a few) prompted discussion of various other Lolly Waters (not Alco pops as they have recently and topically become known). In particular the one that sprang to mind was "Wild Peach". The quandary of the night was "is it still available". I've been to several reputable liquor merchants and so far no dice, but then they were reputable liquor merchants. The quest continues.

Anyway after this we headed on to the 100 Mile Cafe. This little gem is literally hidden away from the world... in Melbourne Central, of all places. It's behind a door that doesn't even look like a door, we actually walked past it before realising it was the entrance.

It's a rather large space, very trendily layed out and with large full length windows that afford a view of the Latrobe/Swanston intersection.

The gimmick of the place is that all produce and drinks are sourced within 100 Miles. One of my dining partners (who happens to be my partner) actually used the GPS to confirm this in one or two cases. Though we were left with a question of who grows rice within 100 miles of the Melbourne CBD, a question for another visit.

For Entre I had oysters (of which there were three types). All delicious. Then I had a burger for main, which was simply fabulous, even the chips were nice.

Several of my friends had the dahl, which they said was less than stellar. We all had a dessert of one form or another which was very nice though a tad expensive at $14 each.

The highlight of the place however was the waitress. She was simply fantastic, you could not ask for a better hostess. When asked for advice about meals and then her advice was ignored, she promptly gave as good as she got, which was hilarious. Also, when asked why there was no West Coast Cooler on the menu, she basically said that they wouldn't lower themselves to that. Also, it's probably not from less than 100 miles away!

All in all it was a wonderful evening out. Even better when deciding to catch a train home we only had to wait 3 minutes which was fairly incredible in itself. Thanks Connex.