I have a new found respect for city tourists.
You know the ones, stopping dead in front of you to stare at Big Ben causing a face plant situation before you’ve even had your morning coffee.
I’m not afraid to admit that I hated these street flounders back in London. Always getting in your way when you were already late for something, that is until I became one myself.
Despite travelling across the Asian subcontinent alone all common sense and navigational skills go out go the window the second I pair up with someone who knows their way around. Taken under the wing of my good friend Gen from home, I hadn’t so much as looked at a map or a street name since I arrived. But when she headed out to an interview and I made lunch plans the other side of the city I was let loose, alone.
Same same, but different
Having been to yoga that morning strolling with a (great) coffee in hand I felt like I’d slotted seamlessly back in to my old life. Some semblance of routine was back and my head must have been stuck somewhere in the northern hemisphere amongst the laid back bars and restaurants of Chapel Street which bore little difference to the ones I used to frequent in Islington.
My first task was to get the tram to the Central Business District, or CBD. I didn’t give it a second thought. Arriving at the right street I could see trams and started to look around for a platform. In the absence of a platform I walked up and down a bit before being horrified at the fact that I didn’t actually know how to get on the dam thing.
But I couldn’t possibly ask someone. Not only would I people think I was a complete nelly I sounded like the Queen whenever I opened my mouth round here.
Stealthily disguising my tram shame I hid behind a lamp post until the next one came, taking note of the stop (by the side of the road, like a bus stop) and etiquette before shuffling on to the next one. I was on! All I needed next was to change in the city to go north, simple stuff.
Five minutes of window gazing and ‘OMG I’m living in Melbourne, this is so cool’ later I realised I didn’t actually know where I was getting off. I’d been armed with some loose instructions of getting off a few stops after the main train station but had no names. Investing faith in the tram map (which will win no awards for design and layout, sozzels Melbourne) I was still none the wiser. I’d have to regally ask someone or risk being even later than I was already running.
Does Australia have pay phones?
With instructions in hand I realised I was really really late. But as an alien of a few days standing I had no phone.
Mmm, no phone, need to call someone. Should I ask that person if I can use their phone? Wait a minute, what did we used to do in this scenario? I swear there was something..
As my brain spluttered and churned up pay phones (!) I dived off the tram to make the call, giving myself bit more time in the bank.
‘How you going?’
Says everyone here. Though at this moment I wished someone had asked me ‘where are you going’ and proceeded to take over and direct me. After identifying the correct numbered tram I went the wrong way (to which I will hold the tram map vicariously liable) then got off at the wrong stop. By the time I’d found where I was going I was in a right flap and ready for a drink the size of my head.
But I had made it. Even if it had taken me an hour and a half with a red face from the afternoon sun. Having a great catch up and lunch I was almost over my alienness until I tried to buy beetroot, to find the only pickled variety came in a CAN, like peas or something.
Yes. I think I’m going to be an alien for a while yet…..