Meanwhile, back at the station
Waiting for Labor to sort itself out or Waiting for Rail Corp is not perhaps as catchy a phrase as Waiting for Godot, but recently I found myself an actor in a Beckett-like universe, waiting for a train.
I stood waiting not with Vladimir and Estragon, Beckett’s famous protagonists, but with my five year old son Luke and his best mate, Tom. I’d promised the two train enthusiasts a short trip to North Sydney.
In Waiting for Godot, Godot never appears. In my play the train did come but only after a series of events that could have been scripted for the Theatre of the Absurd, or Fawlty Towers.
Wynyard Station, Underground, Platform 3:
Two boys and a mother stand waiting for a train. Both boys are hopping up and down with excitement.
Tom: When is the train coming?
Mother: The board up there says 10 minutes. So the train is coming in 10 minutes. That’s about the same time as a swimming lesson. We can count down the minutes till the train comes, like a stopwatch.
Luke: Yeah! He jumps up and down
Tom: Yeah! Also jumps up and down
The boys wait and look at the bumpy yellow line that they are not to cross. They peer up and down the track. The excitement is palpable.
Some time later.
Luke: I’m hot down here Mum.
Tom: When’s the train coming now?
Mother: Let’s check the board.
She looks at the board. The board says 12 minutes.
Mother: Oh the board says 12 minutes. That’s funny. Maybe I read it wrong the first time.
Tom: No! No! But isn’t that more than 10 minutes? It can’t be more than 10 minutes. You said it would go down, not up!!
Mother: Sorry, I mustn’t have read it right. Let’s watch it.
The boys and the Mother watch the board.
Luke: Now it’s down to 11 minutes. Now 10 minutes. Now it’s back to 11 minutes. Why Mummy. Why did it go up again?
Mother: Maybe it’s broken.
Tom hops on one foot, Luke starts playing with his shoe.
Minutes pass …
Tom starts to stare listlessly at an advertising board. Luke sits on the ground and starts playing with the bumpy yellow line.
Mother: Don’t sit on the ground and play with that yellow thing. It’s dirty.
Luke: But Mummy I’m bored.
Tom: Can’t we ask anybody what’s happening?
Mother: I can’t see anybody to ask.
Tom: Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful.
Mother: That reminds me of a play I studied at school.
Luke: I’m really hot.
Some time later …
Both boys are sitting on the ground playing with the yellow line. The mother is standing on one foot, muttering under her breath.
Crackling sound. An announcement is made: “The train on Platform 3 is delayed by 7 minutes”
The boys get up.
Luke and Tom: What? What? What was that!
The mother: We’re saved! The train is coming! It’s been delayed by 7 minutes!
Tom: What does that mean? Has it gone off the rails? What’s happening?
Luke: Maybe they’re getting the Breakdown Train to get it. Or Cranky the Crane! Just like in Thomas.
More than 7 minutes later. Crackling sound. Another announcement is made: “The train on Platform 3 is delayed by 7 minutes”
Tom: But they said 7 minutes ages ago.
Mother: Well this is like two lots of 7. So the train is really delayed by 14 minutes. Because 7 times 2 is 14.
Tom: I don’t understand.
Mother: No neither do I.
More than 7 minutes later.
Crackling sound. Another announcement is made: “The train on Platform 3 is delayed by 7 minutes”
Luke and Tom: WHAT???!!
Luke: That’s three lots of seven. What’s three lots of seven Mum?
Mother: That’s 21 minutes! That’s 21 minutes. I wouldn’t have waited if I’d known it was delayed by 21 minutes!!! They treat us with contempt. Help! What should we do? Who is in charge anyway?
Luke: Who? What Mummy?
Mother: (Remembering the play), There’s nothing we can do….We’ve lost our rights… We got rid of them…I can’t go on like this… Just a harmless little train trip…What could have been the harm in that?
The sound of a train approaching.
Tom and Luke: We’re saved!
The train approaches platform. It’s packed. The platform is packed. The two little boys and the mother struggle onto the train.
The ghosts of Estragon and Valdimir appear on the empty platform as the train doors snap shut.
Estragon: What exactly did we ask [NSW Labor] for?
Valdimir: Oh … Nothing very definite.
Estragon: A kind of prayer?
Estragon: A vague supplication.
Estragon: And what was the reply?
Vladimir: That they’d see.
Estragon: That they couldn’t promise anything.
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