Number 61

"Number 61! Number 61!"

The girl paused, looking around. "Number 61!" Number 61 was AWOL.

"Number 62!" Number 62 stepped forward. I looked down at my ticket again, to check the number. Number 64.

A bloke came forward. He didn’t take a ticket from the dispenser, but went right up to the deli counter, well forward of those of us hanging back waiting for our numbers to come up. Ah, I thought, so there’s number 61, turned up at last and wants to muscle in because he pissed off elsewhere before because he couldn’t be bothered waiting. One of the deli staff came free and sure enough, asked to be allowed to muscle in. The teenage staffer reluctantly served him.

Another bloke came along with his girlfriend. Tugged at the ticket dispenser, and where the rest of us handled it okay, he managed to fluff it and pull out four tickets. Four. Obviously trying to look the epitome of cool in front of his girl, he kept walking with the four tickets, a few metres along the counter, then casually ripped 67 from the top, and discarded 68, 69 and 70. The nerve! Most people at least try and put the unwanted tickets back – try to stuff them back into the dispenser, hand them to new people arriving for a ticket, or balance them on the top. Not this guy. Oblivious or uncaring to the chaos he would cause after his departure. Git.

My number came up. I got my stuff, then sauntered off to the milk section. Behind me I could hear the growing frustration in the girl’s voice. "68! Number 68! 69!… Number 69! 70?" And so it went on.

Instant movie review: The Navigators. Another explosive Ken Loach spectacular rollercoaster-ride. No, actually he’s more known for his thought-provoking social studies, most of which seem to end in tears. This is another of them. But this story of privatised rail workers has striking parallels in Melbourne: the absurdity of the successive rapid-fire changes in company names (another onecoming soon), and former colleagues competing against each other. One can only hope that the progressively more and more aggressive cost-cutting at the expense of safety is not something that has been duplicated here.[Thumbs up]

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