Bush Week: Train home from the footy

A while back, I can’t remember if it was months or years ago, a bloke was passionately telling me how he enjoys not just watching the footy, but the ritual of going to a game. This, he said, encompassed all elements – getting dropped at the station, train in, pre game beer and meal, the walk to the ground, the overpriced warm beers, the halftime feed, the joyous victors and the bedraggled losers, the song, the march back to the station and the train home. Most of that sounds pretty good, a pretty fair assessment I thought. Where this bloke really missed the mark was his inclusion of the train ride, particularly going home. If you enjoy getting the train home from the footy, like I had to the other night with seemingly 60,000 other people post Carlton vs Richmond, you are sick.

Trying to romanticise the train home from the footy is like going to the toilet and trying to push out a really hard poo, except it never comes out, it takes a long time and you end up all sweaty and everything hurts. You might even pull your back out. Bottom line is, it’s no good. When leaving the MCG, you get about 200m down Brunton Avenue before the crowd is all of a sudden 700 deep across 40 or 50m, all queuing up to touch their fucking myki on. Before we move on, lets address the absurdity of the organisation that is Metro Trains. You would think they might have a lot of trains ready to go post match, given they knew Carlton was playing Richmond, as they have for the last 10 years, on the first night of the season, at the MCG, guaranteed 60,000 people minimum are arriving. This is not complex computer modelling, this is simple knowledge. 6 months between AFL games, they have had to prepare for this night. They knew this, and despite it all, do not open the myki gates, but even worse, do not have lots of trains ready to go. So we have the situation where thousands and thousands of people are stuck out on Brunton Avenue, waiting to touch their myki on for trains that aren’t ready. The game finished at roughly 10.15, we were outside the ground by 10.20, and it took us until 10.40 to even get on the platform. Given such a large proportion of fans live out east, you might think that these inept Metro backpatters might have a few more trains heading out to Lilydale and Belgrave more than 15 minutes apart. Without knowing the logistics, I dare say given the size of the area between Richmond and Flinders St that we could have 3 or 4 trains lined up, bang, bang, bang, one after the other, ferrying people off home.

So once you’ve fought through to the platform, you then have to try and fit inside the train. The seats are already taken, usually by people not from the game, and you have to stand, squashed in together on a very personal level. The trains are packed in to the point where the last person on is mushed up against the window. If you are a kid, you are trapped around or under armpit height, exposed to the disgusting hygiene of many people, usually pissed dirty men, who stink like mouldy slippers and let off horrific farts. If you are an adult, your ear is very close to everyone else’s mouth, unless you’re a bit taller like me. People have nothing to hold onto, lean into you, still try and use their phones – what the fuck – and generally wipe themselves all over you, sometimes intentionally, mostly not.

You’ll have one bloke with talkback radio in the earpiece blaring, muttering under his breath to the bloke next to him. Another will be talking about how their team should’ve won, despite being obliterated the whole night and losing by 50 points. “Mate, the fucking umpires mate. Killed us. Unbelievable mate.” One of the terrible winners will be spitting (literally spitting tiny speckles of saliva onto anyone within 10m) out the theme song and telling all the young children of opposing teams to give up and get fucked. Someone will try and tell him off, and he’ll yell back louder. He traditionally reeks of alcohol. Some other halfwit, usually an over confident and very un-funny 15 year old, will have come to the game despite going for another team and yell out “Go Bombers!” or whatever other shit team they go for. Some people from the losing team (me) will look like they want to hang themselves, and stand quietly, ruing their team’s inability to handball to a teammate half a metre away. The hysterical teenage girls will squawk and laugh and talk about their favourite player. They will do this at a volume that you would assume means their friend is at the other end of the carriage, rather than pressed up against them, makeup smearing across each others clothes. Dad’s of the losing team with their young kids will console them, hoping they won’t change teams during the week and assuring them that they’ll win soon. My Dad did this to me most times, and has told me every year for the last 15 years that we’ll be good for premiership contention in 5 years. What a load of shit, Dad. He did what he could.

Slowly, the packed train will filter out. A big clump will get off at Hawthorn and Camberwell, giving those still on and standing the relief of breathing air that hasn’t been respirated by the alcohol soaked airways of the person next to them. They continue to filter off, but it’s a long trip to Ringwood and beyond. By the time you near your destination, you’re generally pretty flat. Always tired, though if you won you’re still buzzing. The losers just want the night to end. It’s a bloody long time to sit there, often in silence, contemplating what a long year it’s going to be after 1 solitary game. Sometimes you’ll see people you want to see, like I did the other night when I had a good chat with my old bus mate Mills. He tried his best to be enthusiastic for the Blues, but his pity only heightened the melancholy mood.

The train ride home is a prick. I don’t want to have 6 people crammed up against me. I don’t want to smell farts and B.O. and teenage girl’s excessively sweet and over applied perfume. I don’t want to hear the cringeworthy dickheads yelling and singing the song. I certainly don’t want to hear the uneducated moron of the losing team blaming the umpiring. And anyone who says they enjoy this inevitable scenario of life is not to be trusted.

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