There's something about a voice coming from a loudspeaker that always makes you sit up, pay attention, and do as you're told, and by 'you', I mean 'me'. After all, when you're a kid you never get given a loudspeaker to speak out of yourself - your own speaking is plenty loud without it. Being in possession of a loudspeaker is always the special prerogative of teachers, and prison guards, not to mention people who work on public transport, and they are generally a combination of the other two categories anyway.
This all leads me easily and naturally to the subject of Melbourne public transport, which I'm not going to talk about except for in this rest of this post. Because, if there's anywhere that you'll see, by which I mean 'hear', the authority conveyed by the loudspeaker more thoroughly abused than on Melbourne public transport, then I'd like to see (hear) it for myself.
On North Melbourne Train Station, where I get off to go to work, a particular sarcastic chap seems to have control of the loudspeakers, who hectors those who make minor infringements on platform 5 crankily whenever he has the opportunity. Taking the tram to Fitzroy once, a chirpy official announcement about validating your ticket (or something like that) was broadcast through the train, in a cheery Kath and Kim accent. Once, when we were walking along Brunswick Street, the Baron and I even witnessed, to our amazement, a tram driver somehow switch on a loudspeaker operating outside the tram in order to harrumph crankily at the person driving the car slowly in front of him.
Not to mention this, that occasionally when I catch the early morning train in to work, an old dude with a positively ancient voice quite frequently seems to be driving it; and this old chap likes nothing better than to switch on the loudspeakers and have a chat with the whole of the train. He pretty much has a captive audience - sometimes, when we're waiting between stations for the line to clear up, quite literally captive. I've had him several times; last Christmas when we were drawing slowly in to Flinders Street Station, he turned on the loudspeaker and talked about family Christmases, and the joke he would have with his father in law. This Wednesday morning, he switched on the loudspeaker, and began a long and meandering conversation that seemed to be heading nowhere (kind of like catching the trains, in fact), before remarking casually that there were hot air balloons in the sky that could be seen through the window.
It was this last comment that really did me in. I've had people use loudspeakers to tell me to do this, do that, validate this, and go to that; but never have I had them use loudspeakers to chat casually about things like hot air balloons floating around in the sky.
People speaking over the loudspeaker will never seem the same again.
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