Last Thursday night, getting home was something of a trial. I left work about 17:30, got to the station and jumped on the first train to Caulfield. Caulfield is the closest major station to me, and sometimes if I catch an express to Caulfield (which is not stopping at my station), it’ll overtake a stopping train (that is stopping at my station) and I’ll save a little time.
This time round, I didn’t see us overtaking any other trains. I got to Caulfield around 17:47 and a half, and found that they were announcing that the 17:49 stopping train had been cancelled. The next would be 18:05, and judging from the swarms of people starting to line up on the platform, would be packed.
This is where a little local knowledge can be a helpful thing. Most people would never think of checking, but I know there’s a bus which runs from Caulfield to a spot quite close to my home. And for just such an eventuality, I had written down the times in my diary. It was due at 17:50. So, getting my umbrella out, I ventured across the grandly named Sir John Monash Drive to the relevant bus stop.
A different bus rolled up, and a few people got on, allowing me to sit down at the stop and read the free tabloid commuter newspaper that I’d grabbed earlier but hadn’t had a chance to read on the train. Even tabloids are hard to read when standing on the train, if it’s crowded enough. If you can get a bit of space and one of those loopy handle things to yourself, you may be able to manage it if you’re lucky, but I hadn’t tried.
I hadn’t missed much. The usual mix of inconsequential showbiz news (which I didn’t care about) and short snippets of real news (which I already knew about). Meanwhile it was getting quite dark, and it was obvious from looking at all the traffic that the rain had made the roads a real mess that night. Even the taxi drivers were driving at sane speeds.
Time marched on, and by the time it got to 18:00, I was thinking maybe the bus was going to be so late that it would be easier to get the 18:05 train. I walked back to a spot opposite the station where I could see the electronic signs revealing many minutes away the train was. That bit of the sign was ominously blank. Just as I was pondering what to do, I saw the bus finally rolling down the street, and leapt back to the bus stop, ready for it.
Just to confuse people, the bus was displaying the destination "Kew", which was the opposite way it was going. Hopefully. I checked with the driver just to be sure. All was well, and we puttered down the street, at a snails pace (not quite literally) due to all the traffic.
The bus driver’s radio (the two-way type, not the easy listening type) revealed the same was happening all over Melbourne. The lethal combination of peak hour traffic and rain had resulted in chaos on the roads. There was a sense of resigned anguish in the other bus drivers’ voices as they spoke about the perils of the Citylink tunnel, how the freeway was crawling and so were all the other routes.
Thankfully for me, once out of the station precinct, the traffic improved a lot, and soon I was at my stop. Only a dance through the puddles in the street (I don’t think the local vicar appreciated the irony in my voice when I said "Lovely evening!" to him), and I was finally at home, around 18:20. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is not too bad really.