Australia Day

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Nick Cave & Dirty Three – Zero Is Also A Number

I was on the train today with Mum this afternoon. We were coming back from the airport, and our combined fare – one way – was more than $30. I suggested she get a pensioner ticket, save half a fare, but she’s terrified of transit officers so didn’t. Halfway home a policeman got on the train – an actual police officer, not a transit officer. He was checking tickets. He walked past two little old ladies sitting together without even glancing at them; he’d locked on to two Asian teenagers. One had his feet up on the adjacent seat and both had small patterns shaved into the sides of their hair. Mum and I watched the policeman stand over the two boys – I was listening to music so I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He swatted the boy’s legs off the seat, and then called his partner over from the other section of the carriage. He literally called for backup. The other policeman was wearing sunglasses indoors and a bulletproof vest. He walked over and stood next to his partner. Together they blocked off the aisle from the boys in a passive aggressive, claustrophobic, totally unnecessary way. My song ended and I heard the first policeman say to one of the boys, “Are you a pensioner? I don’t think so.” Both policeman starting writing out tickets, ducking dramatically in sync to check the name of the station through the window. They both had guns strapped to their legs, and knives in leather pouches on their belt. They probably had tasers. The second policeman never took off his sunglasses, not even to write out the ticket. They took their time. Must have been a slow day for real crime. When they were done they swaggered past the rest of the carriage – all white, all over 20 or under 7. The first cop glanced at the tickets Mum was holding out on her lap – she’d bought her correct, absurdly expensive fare, and she wanted it known. The cop kept walking. Everyone on the carriage exchanged looks of pity and guilt while the boys muttered “bullshit” and other profanities we all silently agreed the cops deserved. The two little old ladies in front of us moved seats so they were two rows behind the boys; close enough so that they could hear them while they murmured about pity and injustice. The weirdest thing was how everybody else in the carriage reacted; I looked around and eye contact was dodged and shame radiated quietly from every face. I think everybody on that train felt something for those boys – anger on behalf of them and shame for the policemen – and for the small, daily injustice that had occurred before them, and for the fact that they were spared. And they felt something for the day on which it occurred. No different to any day other, really. It was just so typical it was disheartening for those who wanted to believe in it.

At least that’s what I want to believe, about those people.

[Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files.]

6 Responses to “Australia Day”

  1. Meg says:

    Not only teenage Asians are subjected to the bullying and intimidation of police and transit officers on a power trip. I believe they specifically target teenage males and I think my son’s thousands of dollars worth of fines are testament to this. It is difficult for the young unemployed to afford public transport when they are receiving just over $200 a fortnight and no concession . . . and then to add insult to injury they slap them with a ludicrously expensive fine . . . makes me so mad.

  2. Joan says:

    Well, I’d agree with that, Meg. I was once handed a fine on a technicality.

    As a student, a friend had bought my ticket and for whatever reason had selected pensioner instead of student. The prices, however, are the same. We were checked by transit officers and, upon realising the mistake, tried to reason that the tickets were the same price and, given I had my student ID with me, that it was only a technicality and I shouldn’t be fined $200 for it. The guard disagreed, patronised me, and handed me a fine anyway.

    Needless to say, I was pissed off.

  3. Michelle says:

    I’ve seen transit officers bully the hell out of international students who didn’t receive concessions until recently, and for obvious reasons don’t have the best language skills. One of them even told one poor guy to “speak English, mate”. To be honest I’m surprised at the solidarity of the passengers – as an Asian Australian girl, almost all the racist incidents I’ve experienced have been on public transport (at a rate of what I’d estimate to be 1-2 times a month – my white boyfriend was shocked when he heard this from me, but obv sampling bias). Restores my faith in humanity a tad. 🙂

  4. Jody says:

    Cops generally have a poor attitude to people that aren’t white, Christian, and dressed liked suburbanites. It’s a power play on any minority group they think they can get away with bullying, or offends their basic fear of anything different.

  5. Bus Driver says:

    Why not just pay your fare and keep your feet off the seats?

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