This blogpost is specifically addressed to the Mums (or Dads) who spend their lives in suburbia. I've recently discovered a whole new side to life, and, now that I've recovered from shock, I'd like to share some of it with you.
Until a few weeks ago my life revolved around suburbia. I woke up in my suburban house, took my kids to their suburban schools, shopped at local shopping centres and socialised (pffffft) with fellow suburbanites at their equally suburban homes and occasionally ventured to suburban restaurants and pubs.
Even working involved getting in my hermetically sealed car and driving to another suburban area where I parked 10 metres from the building, hastily walked with shades on to the door and entered a comfortingly familiar suburban workplace.
THEN I got a job in the CBD 4 days a week. For those suburban parents unfamiliar with the term CBD, this means Central Business District. Also known as Inner City or Parts Unknown.
Commuting to and from this job involves approximately 240 minutes of Being On A Train per week, as well as approximately 280 minutes of Walking Unprotected Through The Inner City.
Scared yet? I bet you are!
It's been an eye opener, I can tell you. I could write page after page of mind-blowing experiences in Parts Unknown, but that would be terribly boring to anyone who isn't me, so I shall spare you and limit myself to a few observations.
1. There are some Very Interesting People in Parts Unknown. These people are quite obviously suburban aliens. They have nothing in common with suburbia whatsoever - in fact, I think if they ventured into suburbia on a Friday morning they'd die of something or other.
I met a lady of indeterminate middle-aged-ness a week ago as she boarded our train with her bicycle and her floppy hat bedecked with huge flowers. This woman was larger than life - flaming red hair cut in a dramatic bob, loud, opinionated and open to sharing her views on just-about-anything with the entire carriage. I found out a lot about the "good old days" when life was good. I strongly suspect she is also a supporter of the Liberal party and pooh-poohs all things climate-change related.
Just last week I stumbled across a chap walking through the city possibly promoting the virtues of French coffee. Monsieur Cafe was approximately 6'6", skinny as the proverbial rail, wearing skin-tight bright blue jeans, a vibrant blue and yellow striped jersey and matching beret. He had tremendously exciting sideburns, a moustache that would make Poirot jealous and carried a fluffy cup and saucer that was about 15 cm tall. He ambled along Hay Street talking to himself in French, and I truly regret not engaging in coversation with him.
My very first day exploring Parts Unknown even brought me the mind-boggling vision of Fred Flintstone parading down the pedestrian section of Murray Street, followed by a 2 metre high rock-wheel rolling behind him.
Why do these people do this? WHO CARES! It's effing BRILLIANT!
2. I've learned something about myself. I am prone to Sidewalk Rage. Given my years of experience in suburban shopping centres I long suspected I had these tendancies, but the last few weeks have proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Look, I don't really care if you're 10 feet wide, limp (I do), are teaching your 1 year old to walk, simply aren't in a rush and prefer to amble along, but I DO very much mind when you do this in front of me. Especially if there are 5 of you doing the same thing all in a row. Don't you realise that my tendancy to abuse the snooze button means that I'm running late EVERY SINGLE MORNING and you need to get the HELL outta my way? Sheesh!
3. Buskers rock. I mean, they REALLY do rock. I've seen what looked like a Guatemalan mountain person (complete with poncho) playing the didgeridoo with amazing skill, a teenager absolutely nailing classical tunes on a flute, a bunch of folks playing toe-tapping Russian dance music complete with dancers performing, more than one talented accordian player and one very memorable woman who looked about 90 singing the most beautiful opera arias. All seen for free on the side of the street. I chuck coins in when I can, but could never afford to properly reward these entertainers for the service and beauty they bring to Parts Unknown, but beyond this I totally admire their guts for simply getting up and doing it at all. They rock!
4. I'm a snob. When I say that I refer more to behaviour than to anything related to class, so perhaps that's the wrong term. I've seen children behave in a manner that would have me threatening to end their young lives, and the accompanying parents said and did nothing. It's truly disgraceful.
5. Carrying on slightly from the previous point, I've come to realise that teenaged girls can be the most baffling and irritating creatures on earth. I'm tempted to urge my daughter to consider a sex-change long before she reaches teenagism. Seriously - are stupid and irritating now considered attractive traits?
6. I am now a keen observer of feet. As I gradually learn public transport ettiquette, it's dawning on me that it's not the done thing to make eye contact with anyone, which is fine by me as my eyes are usually bloodshot, caffeine-deprived and shaded with very dark glasses. This has naturally led me to cast my vision downwards, and I am learning more about feet and shoes than I ever really wanted to know. Did you know, for example, that some chicks actually wear those 7inch stilletto platform shoe things to walk to and from work? One really must wonder why.
I'm a new and devout member of the Wear Thongs To Commute, Keep Good Shoes In Desk Drawer Club. I mean, why wouldn't you? Well, apart from the obvious pedicure issues.
7. And here's the biggie. I've realised how much I was missing out on by staying in my little suburban bubble. It's not like I never ventured into the CBD before, I did, just not very often - usually for shopping on a Sunday or something like that. Experiencing the weekday commute situation, though, is totally different. I want to take my kids with me for some of my commutes so that they can see the Great Big Wide World of People that is out there and learn to love it.
In fact, there's a big part of me wants to shed suburbia entirely and move the whole family into the seething mass of interestingness I've discovered. If you haven't walked around your inner city on a weekday in a while, I strongly suggest that you give it a go.