It's peak hour on a Wednesday, and you're taking the train again to work post-lockdown after your long, enforced soujourn from the office. You're trapped in the familiar crush of Sydney's public transport. You look around with fresh eyes at your fellow commuters, people from all different walks of life, having little in common except for being packed together in a tight space for the next 40 minutes. This is what you observe.
The Power Broker
Treading where mere mortals dare not to, this high-functioning superhuman steps a designer shoe onto the bus of a morning having already closed a deal or two. In the time it’s taken you to untangle your earphones from the knotted quagmire you found them in this morning, they've listened to a motivational podcast, speed-read the morning’s news in French and English, and arranged a play-date for the twins on the weekend. Watching them switch from monogrammed device to monogrammed leather journal and back is frankly dizzying.
The Fast Walker
In a zombie apocalypse, you’d 100 per cent choose the Fast Walker for your team. In any other situation, though, you’d stay away from them because their fervour is truly frightening. They take purposeful, pumping strides, outstripping their competition – not that anyone’s competing, but they definitely see it that way. They fearlessly jam their hand into train doors just as they’re about to close – there’s no way they’re not boarding the 8.21am they elbowed at least three grannies out of the way to catch.
The Acquaintance from First-Year Uni
Spotted too late for you to pretend your phone is ringing, this person has no intrinsic faults – they’ve earned your ire just by virtue of being on the same train as you and wanting to engage in casual, jokey small talk before 9am. Well, maybe that in itself is a fault. You ask all the requisite questions, including, without fail, whether they’re still with that person you vaguely remember they used to date. You forgot that this happy couple had broken up the last time you engaged in this infuriating charade, and yes, your acquaintance is still single, and thank you ever so much for reminding them of that heartbreak.
This person arrives on the train wielding a massive tote bag and a total lack of inhibition. Where others need decent lighting, tools and you know, a mirror to put makeup on in the morning, the Transformer has the preternatural ability to co-opt any vaguely reflective surface for their personal use. Out of the Mary Poppins-esque tote emerges moisturiser, toner, foundation, three brushes, blush, lip gloss, liquid eyeliner and a curling tong. Transformers fare best under pressure and in off-road conditions, thriving off the adrenaline that comes with the knowledge that a poorly timed wave of a mascara wand could lead to blindness. They're true risk-takers.
The Hot Mess
The foil of the Power Broker. You’re never sure how these people survive in the world, but somehow they’ve managed to make it to this point and, judging by their work clothes, are gainfully employed, too. They’re sloshing coffee from a Keep Cup down their lapel while balancing a gym bag, laptop, a suitcase and an overstuffed egg and bacon roll in their hands – the egg is about to fall out, but to save it would be to sacrifice one of the other one thousand things they’re juggling to the abyss of the train tracks. You’re stressed just looking at them. You turn away from the chaos – and hear the wet squelch of the dropped egg you just stepped on.
A fun distraction. Will goggle up at you looking extremely cute, making you forget the tedium and existential malaise of your nonsense corporate job as a Strategic Diversification Thought Leader. You wonder if it, too, will grow up and give up its dreams. The silly face you’ve been pulling at it falls. The baby looks away, searching for someone to play with who doesn’t look like they’ve just been punched in the stomach.
The Missed Connection
The usual suspect is reading a paperback or listening to something you love and haven’t heard forever, or is just devastatingly good-looking. You spend a blissful morning commute imagining your lives together and the colour you’d paint your picket fence – and then, poof. Never to be seen again. But no matter, because you’ll fixate on someone new the next morning.
Identifiable by telltale lightly flaking hands, a direct result of overzealous hand sanitiser usage, the Germophobe was best prepared for 2020. They preached on proper hand hygiene well before their time, had no trouble transforming into an overnight epidemiologist during lockdown, and they're not taking any chances now that they're back and in the treacherous realms of public transport. They make sure to physically distance, won't get on an overcrowded bus, and not only are they wearing a mask, but they know how to properly take it on and off, too. Once a stickler, now a true hero.