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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Spare Oom


When I arrived in Melbourne my cousin offered me her spare room until I found a place of my own; not only rent-free accommodation, but a whole room with a double bed (with clean bedding and everything!) all to myself. These are luxuries that I did not appreciate until I left the UK; and particularly now, several weeks into the hostel life, I wonder at how lucky I was to have such a hospitable cousin. I accepted her offer with gratitude and relief, and was more than overjoyed when she picked me up with my bags (in her car!!!) and drove me there. I should explain here that I am one of those 'backpackers' who can only just physically lift their backpack, and have also accumulated three or four other full bags on their travels. So I am a fairly immobile backpacker, but I still afford myself the backpacker label; I do, after all, still use a backpack.

The room was simple, comfortable, and private. After three months on a variety of sofas having a bed-frame was an incalculable joy; something I never previously would have imagined could have brought me such pleasure. I relished unpacking myself entirely, revelling in the ability to lay my clothes out and see what had been hidden in the depths of my bag for months on end. I found a rather unpleasant bag of laundry that had been neglected for some time, and a pair of earrings that I had given up as lost forever - so a mixed bag, if you'll excuse the terrible pun.

This was all so wonderful until I had to go to work in the morning. I had not realised that in saying she lived 'a bit further out' of the city centre she actually meant she lived on the side of the country... It took me a full hour on the train to get into the city (and thats not even including the walk to and from the stations on each end). Starting work at 8am was pretty painful, and I found myself constantly doing the awkward nodding-dog head bopping of a person desperately, but totally unsuccessfully, trying to keep sleep at bay whilst sitting upright. Whats worse I even did the most terrible thing you can possibly do on public transport; you know that moment when you find that you have been using some poor stranger's shoulder as a pillow, and must awkwardly apologise, sit bolt upright, and then, helpless to sleep's beckoning call, immediately do it again? If you don't know what I am referring to, you don't want to know, its incredibly embarrassing and it happens to me way too frequently.

Despite the longevity of my journey, the ungodly hour of my alarm clock and the awkwardness of breaking the social conventions that restrict when/where and on whom one is allowed to sleep without reproof, the journeys to work were to be far easier than my journeys home. My first day went like this: after work I went out for 'a drink', and some three pints and two cocktails later, me and my partner in crime were heading to the upscale bar of some waiter she had met the day before, with the promise of free drinks (which I was hoping would extend to the best friend too....and they did). As you can imagine it suddenly became very late, and I realised that I needed to catch the last train home to have any hope of getting back in time to have some sleep before the ungodly alarm clock rang and it all began again. I made it just in time. Phew! Or not.... I missed my connecting train and, suddenly being totally stranded, alone, drunk and confused, I decided just to give in and get a taxi.

After realising that I didn't know my address and that I wasn't sure how much money I had, we came to an agreement (I didn't really have any choice in the matter, but it was framed as a mutual consensus, and to be fair to him he was a very friendly man, and I was a very awkward customer). The agreement ran like this; he would drop me at the station nearest where I was staying, as I should know my way back from there, and in return I had to prepay a whopping $100, under the assurance that he would refund me, in cash, any money not ran up on the metre. Seeing no other option I reluctantly agreed, and besides with my phone out of battery, I literally could only go forward, there was no going back. After a tense credit card transaction, the little green tick on the machine has never been so welcomed before, off we went, and after some minutes of drunken small talk I promptly fell fast asleep.

I was awoken to a voice gingerly trying to coax me into consciousness and a hand on my arm gently shaking me. I suddenly became wide awake, and in an incredibly confused state took my refunded $20 - yes the journey cost me $80! - and got out of the car and walked towards the house. Or so I thought. The walk to the station in the morning had taken me about 8 minutes, and yet it was only as I arrived at the next station along the line, after walking for 40 minutes, that I realised something was wrong - I HAD WALKED THE WRONG WAY. It is difficult to express the sense of overwhelming frustration and desperation that I experienced at the moment, but it was immense; I only had four hours until I had to get up for work and I was still so far from reaching my destination and still so inebriated. I, very reluctantly, turned around and walked back, for 40 minutes, to where I had been.

The relief I felt when I finally arrived at the house is indescribable and getting into bed was a  wondrous experience, but, despite my best efforts to get sleep before work the next morning I was entirely incapacitated, and, on calling my manager with, what i thought was a well laid out excuse, I was unemployed by ten a.m.

I wish I could say that this was the only time something like this happened during my stay in the spare room, but seeing as I was then unemployed, and I had just made some fun new friends, in a wicked new city, the next several days consisted of long drawn out pub excursions, and although I never missed the last train home again, I kid you not, every single time (bar literally one) I fell asleep on the train home and woke up at the end of the line, and there being no more trains back towards the city I was forced to get a cab back to the house. Every night. I spent more on cabs in a week than I spend on rent at the hostel now, and that was why I ventured out of the spare room and into "Nico's Friends" ....