It was a Friday afternoon, and I was waiting at the train platform for the train home. Half-past five came and went; no train. But I had my iPod, I had some internets on my phone. I could wait for a while. And finally the train came about 20 minutes late.
All was good until the train arrived at the public transport jewel of Lower Hutt, Waterloo Station. An Englishman got on the train, lugging a suitcase, wearing a Lonestar steakhouse t-shirt and looking rather bothered.
He started complaining aloud to anyone who would listen. “The bloody train was half an hour late”, he moaned. (There must have been a tear in the delicate fabric of the space-time continuum that suddenly added on 10 minutes to the time around Lower Hutt). “I don’t know why I came to this bloody country. Trains run every 5 minutes in London,” he proclaimed, somehow mistaking the suburbs of the Hutt Valley (population 100,000) with being akin to London (population 7,350,000).
No one responded or sympathised. He then proclaimed, “The country’s going to the pack, why wouldn’t the trains be any different?” This drew a response from a middle-aged lady sitting nearby, who’d migrated to New Zealand from England 15 years ago. She asked him why, if he disliked it so much, didn’t he leave. “I am bloody leaving. I’m going to Australia on Monday. Biggest mistake of my life coming here.” Oh, really?
“This country’s 30 years behind the rest of the world,” he angrily exclaimed. But, kind sir, that’s why we like living here. The trains might not run as frequently as in other places, and sometimes there are stoppages, but trains don’t get blown up by wannabe terrorists, and innocent people don’t get killed by paranoid police.
The accidental tourist eventually shut up, and the train made its way on to Wellington. Just past the Kaiwharawhara platform, the Englishman got up and stood by the door, obviously wanting to get off the train as soon as it reached Wellington station.
But – ha – the train stopped and stayed stopped. The conductor came along an explained that the signals system wasn’t working and had to be operated manually, so only one train at a time could enter or leave Wellington station. There was going to be a long wait.
Another passenger really really had to wee, so he walked out onto a connecting platform between carriages and went off that. I figured this would just reinforce the Briton’s opinion that he was riding on the “bloody Flintstones railway”.
The conductor came out again with an update. We’d get there, eventually, but, “That’s what happens when you don’t invest in your railway and now we’re paying for it.” We get to blame both the last National and current Labour government for this. Oh, but Wellington will soon have the shiny new trains, hilariously named Matangi.
The stopped train gave me a chance to check out the surroundings of the railyard, which usually flash by. I saw some graffiti in memory of Darren. What fate had taken him? Maybe he was an English tourist. I wonder if he’d be happy knowing his memorial place was doubling as a public urinal?
Eventually the train got to the head of the queue and finally rolled into Wellington station, one hour after its usual time. I was surprised by how civil everyone (except the angry tourist) remained on the journey. There were a few phone calls made explaining lateness, visitors to the Upper Hutt scrapbooking expo amused themselves with their goodie bags, but no one was furious.
I suppose, when it comes down to it, spending an extra 40 minutes on a lightly filled Welington train isn’t really all that bad.