The 2016 Federal Election is going to be about... stuff. Important stuff. There is so much 'stuff' being talked about, so many issues clamouring for our undivided attention in 30-second sound bites. Is negative gearing a negative or a positive? Should we increase the tax on cigarettes or is that just a policy smoke screen? Jamie wants us to put a tax on soft drinks, but what about a tax on visiting multi-millionaire celebrity chefs?
Please. My head hurts. Can't we all just quietly enjoy the bus ride home?
Apparently not. The reality is that most times, our daily opportunity for reflective pause on public transport is snatched away by fellow commuters who simply don't understand basic commuting etiquette. There are certain users of public transport who have no concept of close-quarter social engagement, making those around them dread the daily train, tram, bus or ferry ride.
The clogging of arterial roads; the rising rate of carbon emissions in our major cities; indeed the slowdown of economic productivity that has led to cost of living pressures can all be traced, in some way, to the hell commuters are subjected to by their fellow travelers. Any political party seeking our vote at the upcoming election must propose aggressive strategies to address these public transport barnacles or risk a mass boycott of public transport.
Any successful federal election strategy will have to address the following threats to a peaceful and efficient public transport system:
Deafening decibel mobile phone talkers
These are the people who you can hear having a phone conversation on the train... three carriages away. They seem to feel the conversation they are having is of such great interest to other commuters that they bellow into their phone like an Amazon Howler Monkey calling for its mate.
The modern failure of human kindness
Nothing sends the general level of morale among a train load of commuters into a tail spin more rapidly than looking down the isle and seeing a parent with a small child or an older Australian standing, clinging precariously to a pole or overhead strap, because the young, unimpeded nonces around them won't stand up and offer them their seat. When using public transport, if you see a person standing near you who obviously needs the seat more than you, please remember this simple acronym -- 'STFU'. I'll let you figure out what it means.
The loud 'like' crowd
It's unclear when the word 'like' became an acceptable interjection in a sentence, however, what is clear is that it seems to have been taught as part of the English curriculum at high school for some time. Its inception into the colloquial vocabulary of young adults, particularly females between the age of 15 and 25, has been paralleled by the increase in incidence of travel sickness on public transport, occasioning projectile vomiting. You know what I'm, like, talking about. You're, like, trapped on, like, a packed bus and, like, two high school kids are, like, standing nearby and every second word is, like, 'like'. At least on a Sydney ferry one can throw themselves overboard to escape the torture.
Train guards with a 'god complex'
Train guards have the crucial task of ensuring it is safe to close the carriage doors in preparation for the train to leave the station. This is a serious responsibility and thankfully most undertake it with appropriate professionalism. However, every now and then there is a train guard who believes they have the power of a demi-god because someone gave them a big red button to press. My wife was recently boarding a train in Sydney, along with our one-year-old daughter asleep in the pram. She smiled at the train guard as if to say 'thanks for waiting'. The train guard proceeded to blow her whistle in my wife's face and press the button for the doors to close, before my wife and daughter were fully on board. The door closed on my little girl's pram and it wasn't until another commuter alerted the guard that she rolled her eyes and opened the carriage doors. As if to enshrine her position as 'tool-of-the-year', the guard took to the train's intercom, apologising to the other passengers for the delay that was due to a 'child conveyance incident.'
These are the people who, on a packed service, let out a gargantuan sigh when you ask them to move their newspaper, handbag, briefcase or other small item to sit in the vacant seat next to them. 'Oh I'm sorry, were you saving this seat for someone or were you just parking your attitude here?'
With all the advances in personal-headphone technology, it's possible to raise the volume of your music to such a level that it actually feels like you've buried your head inside the speaker at the concert. Unfortunately, to everyone nearby it sounds like a legion of chipmunks holding a rave party all around them. On the aggravation scale, this is right up there with a mozzie flying into your ear-hole at night. Please turn it the hell down.
Drunk and trying to hide it
There is only one course of action when you use public transport while three-sheets-to-the-wind. Sit down, shut up and focus on not passing out. Attempting to 'act normal' by: talking to other passengers utilising zero volume control; waving uncoordinatedly at children or old people; or asking the 'people' on the advertisement next to you if 'this is the Eastern line', will likely frighten your fellow commuters and bring you to the attention of the authorities.
Forget detailed policies on carbon trading or emission reduction technology. If we really want to encourage more people to leave their car at home and use public transport, governments must address these incidents of public transport torture.