Drunks, bums, bums on drugs, bums asking for money, aggressive bums beating you up for money - all these things, or a combination of all these things, are a common enough sight on the trains if you travel often enough, late enough at night. But I never expected to get beaten up if I refused to take money off a loud threatening drugged-up guy on the train. It just isn't the way of the world.
Well, I was on the North Melbourne train travelling into Spencer Street Station; it was about a quarter to nine on a Friday night. Requisite Drug Guy was halfway up the passage, shouting loudly at the guys in the seat next to him if 'this was the train to Flinders Street Station'. As if it wasn't; any trains running that way at that time of night went to Flinders Street.
Anyway. The train was pulling into Spencer Street, and I got up to get off. As I did so, I spied on the floor a ten cent coin. Being ever the one to get distracted by shiny things (hey, maybe that's why I read blogs), I bent to pick it up. This immediately got Drug Guy's attention, who walked straight over to where I was.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry, was that yours?
Drug Guy (shouting): It probably was.
Me: Here, take it, I'm getting off.
Drug Guy: No way bro! (Takes his wallet out of his pocket and empties the coins out into his hand) Here, take them!
Me: What? No. I don't need it. Here, you take this.
Drug Guy: No, you give me that ten cents. I'll give you this dollar.
Drug Guy: No man. I know what it's like! I've been there!
Here the Drug Guy waved the dollar around in a menacing fashion and placed it in my hand. Like a fool, I took it, tried to give it back, found I couldn't, and gave him the ten cents instead experimentally, and watched his hand close over it. Then I got off the train.
It was only a minute after that I figured it out: I'd just had ninety cents forced on me against my will. Forced, I tell you! What the hell kind of situation was this? If the Drug Guy had threatened to beat me up if I didn't take 50 dollars off him, I probably would have taken that, too.
(And felt bad about it afterwards - call me a conservative if you like, but the old system whereby you get beaten up if you don't give up all your money sounds simpler and more sensible to me.)
Anyway, the upshot of it was I stumbled onto the Epping train a few minutes later and who should walk on but - Drug Guy? A weird conversation ensued between us, as if we were best friends. I again repeated my offer to give him the dollar back and he refused. ('Don't tell me you threw it in the bin. I'll be CRAZY if you threw it in the bin!' he said, in an ominous shout*.) For the rest of the voyage he spent the time walking up and down the carriage talking to every one of the passengers loudly, and at one point shouting at a person who just got on, 'Hey! Is this the Epping train?' (He got off when I got off, too. Maybe he was planning to stalk me to my house - and beat me up until I took all his cash.)
What the hell kind of world are we living in? First it was Blanders being forced by his boss to take a holiday, now it's me having cash from strangers forced on me in dubious monetary exchanges. I blame Kevin Rudd!
Anyway. Does anyone want a dollar? Oh, all right then. Ninety cents?
*Of course, this is opposed to his usual tone of voice, which was merely complacent and avuncular shouting with just a casually menacing tinge to it.
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