Last week on the trains in Melbourne my regional country upbringing got the better of me and I broke an unwritten Metro train rule. It’s not a rule which is pictured with big red lines “DO NOT DO” signs such as eating, putting your feet on seats or swearing – which everyone does anyways.
The rule is simply the act of conversation. A big no-no.
Despite being squeezed in together like human pretzels and breathing in each other’s stinky BO on the suburban locomotive Melbournians do not speak to one another. I broke this rule – and it paid off big time.
A woman in her late twenties got on the train and sat opposite me. With our knees nearly touching I could not help but notice she was reading the novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a book I was curious about. I opened my mouth, and yes words fell out.
“Is that book good?”
The woman and I talked for about five minutes or so. I told her about how I was studying gothic literature and was interested in the genre. She told me she enjoyed the gore in the book, but had not read any Jane Austen before. It was not awkward, in fact I felt less uncomfortable about sharing a space with a stranger, seeing as the stranger was friendly. She went back to reading her book and I went back to listening to my iPod.
When the woman got up to get off at her stop she put the book on my lap. I thought she wanted me to read the blurb, but I was wrong.
“You can read this, I’ve finished reading it.” She said.
“Excuse me? – What? No, I can’t accept this.”
“No, you can have it.” And without another word she got up and left.
The act of kindness, a stranger giving me a book for no reason really made my day. I got off the train, book in hand, glowing and feeling like the Dali Lama with love for humanity.
And it started with breaking the unwritten rule of conversation.