Monday, January 18, 2010

Trains and trams troubles

"Our" train station, just up the street.

One big reason we decided on our high rent flat is that it's next to a train station. A hub of a train station - a good one that splinters trains off in lots of directions. It has a 7-11 that sells my favorite iced coffee drink, Ice Breakers (450 calories, and I have one most every day). It also has a deli that serves delicious, cheap, crispy fried chicken parts.

We mostly take trains North/South and trams if we need to go East/West. A tram is like a trolley, it runs on rails (slowly) and stops often (constantly). I don't like to transfer more than once... occasionally we're looking at 1 train + 1 tram + 1 tram + short walk. I have a special word for that, "taxi".

A tram. Note Melbourne's cartoonishly perfect
palm trees, which are everywhere.

Tom always buys a monthly pass all-zone pass, so he can ride anything he wants all day for no extra cost.

I probably have fifty pairs of shoes more than I need, but it just destroys me to not plan my training and tramming for the day in the most cost effective way. For about $3, you get a two hour window to ride any combination of trains or trams...but if you validate your punch card within 3 minutes of the hour, you can get nearly three hours out of it. So guess who mills about train stations watching the clock? The girl who talks funny with the pink shoes, yes!

Now they're changing the whole system...when we get on board either a tram or train, instead of disposable little punch cards, we're supposed to start using a credit card type thing, called "Myki". Their tagline is "Myki, it's your key". We've found the advertising and marketing people here aren't terribly sophisticated.

New hard plastic travel passes. No worries if it gets lost, your balance is tracked by fancy computers and you can get a new one, easy peasy.

Today I went to have some routine tests done at the hospital. I made a slight bookkeeping misestimation (that's my word for "spent too much over the holidays and forgot to transfer money out of savings"). So when the X-ray receptionist told me my bankcard was declined, I didn't have a melt down, but I was a little embarrassed. Everyone is really SO nice here that even these kind of things are pretty manageable. Tom straightened it out, I paid the bill, which Medicare will mostly reimburse us for, and I went to get on the tram.

Which was peppered with ticket checking agents. Now one of my worst nightmares is to be one of those passengers who gets a $172 ticket for riding public transportation without a validated ticket. What could be more shameful? I would never let this happen. I ALWAYS have a valid ticket.

So here I am, this cutting edge new Myki card holder, aglow with redemption from my last humiliation, only moments prior. I whip out my new Myki plastic wallet (very handy) and swipe my new Myki card over the tram's new Myki reader, right in front of the officer. Nothing happens. No light blinks. No sound makes. I swear I was doing this all weekend and it worked every time.

The officer, ticket pad in hand, tells me Myki isn't valid on trams. I did a quick round of "Nuh uh!...Uh huh!...Nuh uh!" in my head. This is seldom useful to play out in a real negotiation so I try to just do it in my head. I wonder if anyone on the tram also got to witness my credit card incident at the hospital? Admitting defeat, I punch one of my old paper passes with the old manual validating machines and skulk off to a seat.

Old, paper punch pass. They often get wadded up in pants pockets and stop working. Occasionally, laundered and rendered useless.

Now tonight, when I go to our board games group, it's going to cost me like an extra seventy cents. If that happens a hundred more times, guess who won't be getting new shoes?

As it turns out, the ticket policeman was right, the trams aren't using the new system because the of glitches in the roll out. I read it online. It's an all out debacle here. Seriously, this is big news for Australia. The injustice of it all. How did we not notice this before we let ourselves get roped into the whole new Myki thing?

I think I was somewhat aware of just what luxury problems I had in America. This reminds me that, in fact, I think we're even more insulated from everyday troubles here. Last night in the park, a friend asked if we thought we would stay here indefinitely. It's hard to imagine anywhere I could enjoy living more. Maybe we'd leave eventually, I guess, if something took precedence over enjoyment, which it certainly could. I'm not sure what that might, family, personal development, sense of purpose, access to wider range of nifty shoes...hard to say.

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