Late in the afternoon I had a spur-of-the-moment idea and hopped on the train into the city. After a few weeks of knowing that a cousin is somewhere in Melbourne, but probably busy being an English backpacker and doing whatever English backpackers do, I decide to go and find him rather than wait for him to find me. Almost didn’t get there, the ticket machine on the platform decided to reject my $5 note a few times before finally spitting out a ticket, I grabbed it and dived on board as the doors were closing, forgetting — of course — to validate the ticket.
Change at Flinders Street station, then around to Spencer street, an unholy nightmare of a construction site — the whole place is boarded up and barricaded off, misleading scraps of paper thumb-tacked to hoardings redirect passengers around in all directions. My ticket won’t let me out the gates because I haven’t validated it getting in, so I have to get it validated on the spot, a minor hassle.
Off down the street to the backpackers’ on the corner to see if I can find Ben. First attempt is unsuccessful, I try the wrong surname — that side of my family tree is convoluted at best, and I have trouble remembering who has what name. I retire to the bar next door and order a beer — cheap, cool and flat — just how the English travellers like it. Inspiration strikes and I head back to the reception desk and try again with the right surname… success!
A big catch up in the bar over a few drinks, Ben and I haven’t seen each other since he was about ten, so many things have changed! Finally we decide to head over to Richmond and meet Jo for dinner. Ben goes to get changed, I ring Jo, we finish our drinks and off down the road to jump on a tram….
Of course I didn’t bother validating my ticket, nobody does, I knew it was still valid from the train ride in…. As we were getting off at Richmond Town Hall, we were suddenly surrounded by four inspektors, insisting on seeing our tickets — of course mine had expired as a result of the combination of beer, laziness and carelessness. The inspektors make us stay on the tram and miss our stop, but let us off a block later after a good few minutes of stand-over multi-person interrogation and intimidation. Names and details are exchanged, we are separated and quizzed individually, finally allowed to leave and told that in the next two weeks we may or may not receive a $150 fine each.
Finally we get to to catch up with Jo, who is starting to wonder where we’d got to. Dinner was fun, but it was an expensive evening!