Time for another CityRail story. This experience really made my stomach churn. You’ll find out why soon enough. I’m just warning you now: You really don’t want to be eating something while you’re reading this post.
It was my normal venture in university last Tuesday. Again, and as I always seem to do, I got the all-stations train from East Hills. Once at Wolli Creek, I got off (as, you may recall, trains don’t go through Sydenham and Redfern outside of peak hours for the East Hills line), and proceeded to platform 4, where I would wait for the train coming up the Illawarra and South Coast line, headed towards the city.
No problems with that leg of the trip. Well, there were the usual problems – people sitting next to you, people talking loudly on mobile phones, all the windows closed, progressively getting later and later as we made our way up the train line. But there was nothing out of the ordinary thus far. The should have alerted me then and there.
The power, the truly evil power, that conspires against me (employed by CityRail no doubt) was biding its time. It was saving all its potency for the train that I was about to board. I should have known that something was going to happen. I wish I had the foresight at the time. I really do.
The train arrived. The gates of Hades opened, and out rushed (not stepped off or walked, but rushed) a businessman and an Asian-decent woman, both 40 or older. This wasn’t the issue. In fact, people rushing in and around trains is common practice. And I know to stand to the side of the doors to let people out first. I then began to walk into the carriage, wondering to myself “What was their problem?”
And then it hit me. With overwhelming force and strength, it hit me. A smell. The smell. My God the smell!
Now I consider myself a civilised man – perhaps some might argue too civilised. One part of my civil upbringing was being taught to keep myself clean. To shower or bath once at least once a day. To wear deodorant. Obviously, there was someone who had had a slightly different upbringing. They were taught to never clean themselves, and that the human odour is, well, intoxicating.
The vile and putrid smell of body odour filled the cabin. There were many people already there, before I and the others at Wolli Creek got on. Their faces, for the most part, were blue. Blue from holding their breaths for minutes on end. You could hear the brain cells dying, not because of the lack of oxygen, but because of that repugnant smell!
In a quick survey of the people around, I spotted the culprits. I didn’t have to get any closer to know it was them. I knew. I sat in the furthest seat away from then, but I knew in my heart (and in my nose) that there was never going to be a seat on this train far enough away.
That ranks and foul air: I shall never forget. It hung on the hairs through my nostrils. It burned the back of my throat. For days, all I could taste was that damned smell! Choloraform, Mustard Gas, Agent Orange: They were preferable options.
The smell didn’t come from but one source though. Rather, it was being omitted by a whole family who looked like they were living on a welfare income. A father and mother, 2 daughters and a son. The 2 daughters were dressed for school; the father in a 1990’s basketball jersey with a Yankees hat made fashionable, and shorts down to his ankles (the waist, not the legs). Do note the absence of shoes. The mother was dressed in such a way that she may have got on the train immediately after walking out of a second-hand store. She didn’t look like the sort of person who would have paid either.
As I sat there, I began to wonder if my clothes would begin to absorb and soak in the smell. I began to worry, as I held my breath for extended periods of time. “Would I have to burn my current outfit? I rather like these shorts.”
All the whole, there was an incessant and extremely annoying clicking’sucking sound.
You might be saying, now, “Thomas, you forgot the son!” All intentional, good reader, all intentional. That fat, unpleasant, irritating agitator was sitting directly opposite me, bouncing off one parent’s shoulder, that he sat between, to the other and then back again. Over and over. I’m sure he was dressed like Satin, and I have come to believe that the Dark Prince has come to tempt me with sin for the next 15 minutes.
The temptation: Murder.
That damned kid sat there, bouncing away, apparently ignorant of the disgusting smell that surrounded him and his family. And on and on he would make this clicking/sucking sound; as though he were sucking the inside of his cheeks in, then letting them go. He performed this with such regularity and rhythm that I wondered if he was, perhaps, an idiot savant. I realised that he was simply an idiot.
The boy wouldn’t have been aged more than 5 or 6. And never have I been angered and annoyed by someone so young.
The most obnoxious thing about this family was that they didn’t even care about that little git’s non-stop ‘habit’. I could understand (not really. Not at all) wanting to go out smelling like nothing on this green Earth should smell like, but you couldn’t possibly ignore that damned noise! Only once did anyone try and shut him up – the father. And even then it turns into a joke between the two. A quality father/son moment I guess.
At one point, the mother was handing out loose change to her school-bound daughters. The son put his hand out for some money then. I expect he will be doing this quite a bit throughout the rest of his life.
I ended up staring at the boy after my numerous quick glances didn’t quieten him. All he did was look around and continue.
Eventually, Redfern station was upon up. I had been standing at the door for a few minutes prior to this though, in the hopes of escaping the 7th circle. I craved the fresh air and peaceful silence I have often taken for granted. The doors opened and I too rushed out. Even on the underground platform that I was on had the sweet smelling air that I was longing for.
I continued my rush to university, trying to push all memories of that damnation of a train trip to the untapped portion of my mind (where it would find company in that part with sympathy and empathy). Though I fear these memories are a beast that will ravage at me for some time.