Broken Law

Central Station Sydney - leaving the platform, headed towards Devonshire Street

Central Station Sydney - leaving the platform, headed towards Devonshire Street

I broke the law tonight. Inadvertently. I caught the train from Lewisham to Central without a ticket. As I approached the exit I was more than a little worried. With my eyes firmly planted on the floor, I was stunned when two black American blokes said to me, “Hey boss” (in a post-modern kind of way, I’m sure). Had I been caught out? No. Thankfully, all they wanted to know was how to get to Kings Cross. So I advised them and made my way towards Devonshire Street, hoping the exit would be unattended. Thankfully it was.

I’d walked from the Lewisham Hotel to the station and had taken a place on the platform without really thinking. It wasn’t until I was on the train that I realised I’d forgotten to buy a ticket. “Please”, I thought to myself, “Please, don’t let there be any guards on the train”. And if there were, I thought to myself, what do i say? Do I say the machines weren’t working, or do I just tell the truth, that I was a dumb-arse who’d simply forgotten to buy a ticket, distracted by the cleaners on the station?

It’s not the first time, though, that I’ve caught a train without a ticket. The first time was when I was 18 and traveling in Germany. I’d just been to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp, and, short of money, I decided to take the risk of traveling without a ticket. I wasn’t caught. More recently, I traveled to the Blue Mountains in the midst of winter. On the Monday morning and heading back to Sydney, we arrived at Medlow Bath to discover the machines weren’t working. So we actually took a photograph of the machine to prove it, should we need to on our arrival back in Sydney. Yeah, when it comes to fare evasion, I’m a bit of a pussy.

I guess part of the reason why I may have forgotten is because I went to the pub tonight and had a couple of beers, as is my want on a Wednesday night. I might not have gone tonight, were it not for the presence of visiting Swede, Gustav.

But I guess that’s just an excuse, since the whole of the last week has been one big booze-fest, having been out just about every night. A play, a couple of movies, a cabaret show, catching up with friends, and then last night, taking part in a Trivia Night at the Strawberry Hills Hotel.

And it ain’t over yet, as I have work-related functions to attend for the next two nights – the launch of an exhibition at the Museum of Sydney and this year’s Archibald Prize – ahead of this weekend’s activities with Mardi Gras. I need a holiday.

  1. Dear James, I am surprised at you – I thought fare evasion was an essential rite of passage in a misspent youth! As uni students in the southern capital, we perfected it as an art – feigning sleep on the trams so the conductors left you alone; running through the train barriers wedged in the middle of a peak hour mash while waving an old ticket at the inspectors so they didn’t chase you… and all of this with the self-righteous conviction that one day after we graduated we would be paying more than enough tax to cover this minor grifting. Ah, the good old days.

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  2. Miss Andrea, while it might have been a “rite of passage” for you “Southerners” to evade fares during your undergraduate days, those of us who went to university in Queensland during the 1980s broke many more laws, often even without thinking. Simply walking three-abreast down the street was breaking the law in Queensland back then, with three abreast being declared the number of people it took to constitute an “illegal protest”. And I’ve lost track of the number of dodgy bars I entered in Fortitude Valley during the “Moonlight State” days, most notably the club where, after midnight on a Sunday, we would need to leave when the police arrived, only to return inside (with their blessing) minutes later. So don’t bang on about your bloody black skivvy-wearing undergraduate faux-radicalism, because those of us who went to university in Brisbane back then have you licked! Ah, the good old days.

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