We haven’t heard from Max Williams in a while, but we love it when we do. Today, he shares a ‘day in the life’ story, and wonders how Melbourne earned its ‘most-liveable city’ mantle.
Yesterday, on a beautiful Melbourne summer's day, I ventured into the city. I caught the number 6 tram from the Eastern suburbs and was there in 30 minutes. What a wonderful transport system, I thought. A seamless way to travel. I don't do it very often, but when I do I reckon it's great. I observe things along the way.
Most people have things in their ears. Of course, with the older generation it's more likely to be hearing aids. What a generational change we have been through. The younger generation – what do they call themselves – GenX, GenY, or is it something else these days, perhaps GenZ?
Wikipedia says that Generation Z, also known as iGeneration, Post-Millennials or Homeland Generation, is the demographic cohort after Millennials. Anyway, most of these ‘Gens’ have their iPhones or Androids out, and they are texting away. Using their thumbs at supersonic speed to type a message … sorry ‘msg’! When I type a text, I use my right index finger only, and I generally read it back to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, or I check that the predictive text hasn't kicked in and completely changed the meaning of what I wanted to say to something garbled and meaningless. How often do we get messages like that, eh? ‘OMG I'm so sorry’. That message should have ended with ‘lol’! Is that short for lolly, I wonder – meant as a sweet goodbye?
I also observe that at least half the people who get on the tram don't ‘touch on’ with their Myki card. Again, these are mostly from the younger set. Some stand near the box, so that if the inspectors get on, the fare evaders can whip their card out and sneak a ‘touch on’ before being sprung. We have a fantastic public transport system which is being compromised by fare evaders. Would there be enough support to bring back the ‘connies’? I think not.
So I hop off the tram at Fed Square. It’s midday and the city is abuzz with activity. I look over to Fed Square and see some construction happening. I'm wondering if this is the new Apple building. Another council cave-in, pandering to big business? There are some homeless people lying on the footpath near the station and I think about their situation and how we might solve this ongoing issue. I cannot find a solution in my mind.
I wait at the crossing with a hundred or so others and see a few walking across against the red light. Does it really matter if you gain a few seconds by doing this? People are impatient and want things to happen yesterday. The stress of daily life is alive and kicking, folks. Everyone is in a hurry. I meander up Swanston Street and view the tacky food outlets and souvenir shops along the way. I think of the great iconic street malls, in particular, Las Ramblas in Barcelona, and wonder if we can get it together to develop something like that for Melbourne. Not in my lifetime, I'll bet!
People are walking every which way, and I have to side step often. Why can't people walk on the left, for heaven's sake? We drive on the left, so it should be easy. But we are not that organised or regimented, are we?
There are buskers along the way. Most are really talented and are probably doing it tough. Marina Prior was a busker as was Ed Sheeran. Look where they ended up – there's always hope, isn't there? Something flows into my mind.
Melbourne has just been listed as the ‘most liveable city in the world’ for the seventh consecutive time. I see graffiti on the walls in the laneways and alleys; the homeless in dark and dingy corners and on the footpaths. I read about the spate of crimes and home invasions. I’m aware of the pressures of buying a home, and my pet gripe – no train service to our airport. This last reason alone should be enough to give us a lower rung on the most liveable city ladder.
Don't get me wrong. I love Melbourne, but this liveable thing – I just don't get it. Perhaps it is all to do with the high-end economy and not much with real life events.
I meet up with an old school mate from Footscray Tech with whom, after 55 years, I just reconnected. We have lunch in Hardware Lane and talk endlessly about the past over some tapas and wine (nice wine, but $14 a glass! One of those giant glasses with a dash of wine at its base – am I out of touch!). What a fabulous thing to do and I am lapping this day up.
We part and make arrangements to meet up again. Your shout next, Bill! I take the laneway back to Collins Street and through the ANZ building, the former Stock Exchange, with its stunning internal gothic architecture. Wow! It's back past the Flinders Street Station and what a difference a facelift makes. The outside of the station is already looking great part way through its rejuvenation.
The tram ride out of the city is not pleasant. Where do they get these drivers from? It's a very jerky ride. That's okay if you want to become very friendly with the passenger next to you. The sudden stops – not good for the people standing up. They are swaying with the forces, nearly falling over, one way, then the other. I get off the tram and stumble a bit. I need to develop ‘tram legs’. I wonder if people who use the tram daily have developed theirs?
This has been a fabulous day. I have taken a lot in and, in my mind, have silently cursed some things and have been elated at others. It's great to be alive and on the right side of the grass!
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