<p>Lily Raynes on surviving the public transport system with a minimum of dignity</p>
“Ticket, please.” The phrase sliced through my pleasant daydream. The 48 tram sped past Fitzroy Gardens en route to my stop halfway down Bridge Road.
The woman before me stood tall, her blonde hair scraped back into a tight ponytail that fell down to her shoulder. Her lips were deep mauve and pursed, her eyes dark blue daggers. She dug around in her fitted North Face jacket and produced a silver badge verifying her status as a Public Transport Villain. Fear washed over me.
I had not touched on my myki that day.
I’d taken up a policy of refusing to touch on for the previous few months—my defiant protest against myki. I saw myself as a renegade. Wax on, wax off; touch on, touch off. Sticking it to the man, one free $2.15 tram trip at a time.
This approach had been working in my favour. I was stealthy and quick, able to discern the presence of an undercover officer in a flash, with their thick leather jackets, tattered satchels and knock-off Vans. I would be off the tram in an instant, living to evade the system another day.
But this day was not my day.
“Ticket, please,” she repeated. A bright red flush spread from my neck to my cheek as I stumbled to respond.
“What… Sorry, I… No…”
I felt daggers piercing my forehead as I began to fumble through my wallet, sorting through various used coffee cards on a hunt for a non-existent myki. She knew she had caught me and raised her hand to summon her cronies. Two men in leather jackets lumbered towards us and towered above me, blocking my exits on each side. She pulled out a neat black ticketing book, the ripped columns evidence of those fallen before me: my allies in the crusade.
As she began her rehearsed speech on the $238 fine I would receive in six months, I felt myself start to cry. At first it was soft and slow—a girl weeping over her predicament, typical on Melbourne’s public transport. But as the tram sped up Bridge Road, my body started to shake.
How could it have come to this? My career as a seasoned veteran fare evader, figurehead of the freedom fighters, defender of the voiceless and myki-less—it all lay in tatters in front of me, crushed under the heel of her ragged New Balance sneakers. The resistance was dead.
I was no longer the young girl silently weeping on a Saturday morning. Today I transcended all social conventions, becoming hysterical and inconsolable, bellows of pain echoing throughout the now silent tram.
Businessmen stealthily lowered their Kindles and phones to watch the show as I became a toddler in a work uniform. I stamped my feet and thrashed in my seat, refusing to respond to the woman’s increasingly desperate pleas for calm. If I were going to be fined, she would have to force that ticket down my throat. As I cried about the injustice being forced upon me, the woman and her cronies circled around, desperately looking to each other for guidance. The woman’s pursed lips tightened, her eyes pleading with me. She had not expected this when she boarded tram 48 today.
After a four-minute ordeal that brought the tram to an awkward silence and the officers to complete confusion, I lifted a limp hand and gestured towards the opening doors, softly hinting at my tram stop’s approach. In exasperation, the woman nodded for my leave.
I bounded off the tram into the crisp air and exhaled. I wiped away my tears and breathed until my bright red face faded back to a shade more human.
I had lived to evade another day. In my battle against the public transport system in Melbourne, I had learnt another lesson. You can’t have shame when you’re up against myki.