I peer out the dust-incrusted window as I shift my bag to avoid the slow trickle of a hastily dispensed McDonalds Coke. As the brown liquid wriggles down the centre aisle I shift my focus back to the scene beckoning me from the window. I see the city of Melbourne. This is my weekly trip from the outer suburbs into the heaving, pulsating epicentre of it all. The weathered bus writhes and jerks through an intricate route of spindly streets, gushing freeways and space less city avenues. I see more on my bus ride than I would on any journey in a car. As each person climbs aboard the bus, I see a little bit of their lives unfolding before me, more often than not it’s as mundane as them sitting on a seat leering, like me, out a dirty window. However, there are times when you get a visceral glance into the life of a complete stranger, my form of reality TV.
Today, a couple sits three seats in front of me, initially its nothing more than that. My mind is elsewhere as I sink deeper into the songs that are permeating my brain via a brilliant white bud, I disappear from the bus and into a world beyond imagination. Until, I’m snapped violently back to the bus, where a squabble takes hold between the couple, its hard not to be taken in by the drama of it. I lower the volume of the music in an attempt to piece together the thrust of the argument. A rambling conversation ensues, much of it incompressible, nevertheless its as gripping a viewing experience as anything I’d likely see on TV. The couple let fly with a sequence of vile insults and tongue in cheek taunts. It’s truly amazing what the human mind is capable of, in a matter of seconds I had conjured an entire back story behind these complete strangers, manufacturing life events that would explain why they would be sitting on a bus arguing about who was going to buy the milk. I’ve spoken about my love of stories before and here on buses, trams and trains is when my mind invents more fictional narratives to help negotiate the often-reprehensible behavior people exhibit. The squabbling couple are an example of how perceptions shape so much of how we behave and interact with people and the realities we create for them. Before their trip on the bus is complete, the indignation is gone and the alliance is once again strong as the couple stroll from the bus hand in hand.
My journey has just begun however, as I traverse from one world to another with regularity, i see the disparity in suburban life when held up against city living. The dichotomy of a dilapidated and graffiti inscribed shop front on a dying suburban strip and the lavish monuments and eye-catching artwork that litter the CBD. I journey through the layers of the city as the bus chugs despairingly from stop to stop. Each layer brings with it a different and evolving soup of people and their individual existences, each layer sharing a duality with the last and evidently each serving a purpose to keep this great city breathing.