Paul Kelly’s greatest ever song Luck is a plaintive lament about the constant conspiracy of mother nature, society and the capo-political machine against the humble individual struggling to make his way in the world.

(Sorry Joe, we couldn’t find Lucky. All we’ve got is this homemade version of From St. Kilda to Kings Cross)

Or, to put it another way, it’s about a man who misses a train.

The basic moral lesson of the song is that if life can find any way to defeat you it will do so both crushingly and as often as possible. It is a philosophy I have held dear all the years of my life.

I should not have been disappointed, therefore, when an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday turned into the sort of 24 hours that makes the Gaza strip look like a nice place to sunbake.

It all started when a TV station called at 8.20am asking if I could offer my expert commentary at 9am. Given the last minute nature of the mission I suggested that perhaps they should try someone else and they assured me repeatedly that they had tried every single other journalist in Australia, several from overseas, and a handful of talking animals, before they got to me.

So I ran to the train station and was delighted to see a train there at the platform ready to go. I trotted down the steps as fast as I could but my progress was abruptly halted by some underdeveloped eight-year-old who couldn’t use the stairs without gripping the handrail and whose father was clearly too busy worrying about his failed marriage and bottoming career to yank the little knuckle-dragger out of my way.

Eventually I made it onto the platform and squeezed enough of myself through the door to crush my arms and squash the banana I was carrying, whose consumption was the only thing I had to look forward to so far that day, but the doors jammed and in order to preserve my life I pulled out.*

The conductor of course saw none of this because some retard decided it would be a good idea to make Sydney platforms curvy.

I then ran back up to the street and attempted to flag down a taxi, but of course there were none. This is in accordance with the unshakable natural law of both cabs and cops, which is they’re never around when you need one and when they are around you suddenly fear for your life.

Not to be perturbed, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and went to call a taxi, only to realise that because I was in the remote area that is the middle of the largest city in Australia Optus decided it was a place that didn’t need reception.

I also thought I should call the TV station ASAP to tell them I was running late but because the iPhone decides that a lack of a signal is in fact a signal to crash, I had to turn it off, wait 10 seconds, smash my head against a wall, and turn it back on again.

Anyway, the segment got cancelled, I got on a later train and apart from the fact the ticket barrier rejected my newly bought ticket and slammed into my nuts, the rest of the morning went quite well.

*This is something of a moot point as, being CityRail, there was no room on the train for me anyway.

To see Joe’s thrilling urban adventures follow him on Twitter at @joe_hildebrand and his hashtag sensation #manvswild

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Most commented


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    • James Ricketson says:

      04:56am | 11/03/11

      This is a mildy amusing anecdote, Joe, but why do you wish to share it with the world? And why, oh why, Punch, do you publish it?

    • deb says:

      05:57am | 11/03/11

      Yes James,i too had a problem with this whinge.

    • acotrel says:

      06:04am | 11/03/11

      Joe,Sounds like you need an antidepressant!

    • TimB says:

      07:41am | 11/03/11

      Uh…because it’s amusing?

      Nothing wrong with a little levity on the Punch, especially on a Friday.  Not every article here has to hold the potential to unleash political blog warfare.

      Ignore the whiners Joe. Skewering ShittyRail, Apple & Optus in the one article. Gold.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      08:28am | 11/03/11

      He got hit in the nuts at the end…what other reason do you need to have an article published?  That one paragraph is better than a substantial portion of trash I’ve read this week on several news and opinion sites.  Well done sir!

    • DH says:

      11:29am | 11/03/11

      Choked on my sandwich at the last bit. So glad to hear I’m not the only one whose nuts are black and blue from those bloody sporadic ticket barriers. It’s like they’re designed for maximum punching bag efficiency. Left, then right. Down he goes.

    • Zeta says:

      07:19am | 11/03/11

      “ otherwise unremarkable Wednesday turned into the sort of 24 hours that makes the Gaza strip look like a nice place to sunbake.”

      But… the incident described takes place between 8:20am and 9:00am. Forty minutes. Did this happen while you were incepted?

    • James1 says:

      09:34am | 11/03/11

      Maybe he meant between 8.20am Sunday and 9.00am Monday.  He is talking about CityRail, after all.

    • Adam Diver says:

      08:22am | 11/03/11

      “because some retard decided”

      Are you allowed to publish this? My first thought was that the PC crowd would be in a rabid frenzy.

      The fact that I thought that is my biggest concern

    • Zeta says:

      08:35am | 11/03/11

      That whole campaign to stop using the word ‘retard’ is a purely American obsession. Like Promise Rings. Or pickles.

    • True Believer says:

      08:58am | 11/03/11


      It is not a matter of political correctness, it is a matter of being civilized sufficiently that one does not have to use words relating to intellectual disability to describe the behaviour of another. I call it sensitivity and common sense, with a dash of respect for others. :0)

    • AdamC says:

      09:15am | 11/03/11

      I agree, Zeta, I don’t think Aussies have got quite so zealous about enforcing politically correct language as to ban the figurative use of the word ‘retard’. Though I haven’t heard people use ‘spastic’ for a while (even literally) so the tide encroaches.

      Didn’t Miley Cyrus use ‘retard’ inappropriately and then get burned in effigy by that moron on MSNBC? Or was that just my imagination?

    • Zeta says:

      09:26am | 11/03/11

      @ True Believer - I call it retarded.

      @ AdamC - Do you need an excuse to burn an effigy of Miley Cyrus?

    • James1 says:

      09:35am | 11/03/11

      Why should anyone who designed curved rail platforms be respected?

    • Hamish says:

      10:50am | 11/03/11

      Zeta, I don’t care what you say about retards, but i just cannot stand by and let you smear pickles like that.

    • Elphaba says:

      11:13am | 11/03/11

      My flatmate called me a retard the other day when I almost fell off the chair I was standing on trying to change the smoke alarm battery.

      I’m tall, it’s not my fault.  Tall = klutzy.  My brain is occupied with being smart, not checking to see if my footing is secure.  grin

    • Rev says:

      01:04pm | 11/03/11


      Smoke detectors - the incredibly noisy silent killers.
      You should call ACA.

    • True Believer says:

      02:28pm | 11/03/11

      Mmmmmmmmm still did not pass muster - Punch pleeaaaaaaaaaaseeeeeeeeee give me a list of words which do not please the moderator.  I really do not wish to offend, but obviously you think my posts would. :0(


    • Tim says:

      03:20pm | 11/03/11

      I knew the Black Eyed Peas had lost their way (if they were ever cool) when they changed the words to their song “Let’s Get Retarded” to “Let’s Get it Started”.
      That’s what I think is Retarded.

    • stephen says:

      08:27am | 11/03/11

      I think this is an oblique way of saying that Paul Kelly is smart, and really means what he says.
      But is he, and does he ?

    • Duncs says:

      09:37am | 11/03/11

      James Ricketson & Adam Diver… The Sydney Morning Herald called - they said you can come home now… your chai latte is getting cold.

    • warragal says:

      09:42am | 11/03/11

      i thought the song was about his a.f.l. playing days, like moving from city of melbourne to play for sydney swans.

    • Liv says:

      09:47am | 11/03/11

      I can’t believe you were going to eat a banana Joe

    • null says:

      09:51am | 11/03/11

      How can we be living parallel lives in which the context is completely different yet the experience identical?
      Please ensure we never enter each others space as we may find we are made of the same matter and our meeting will call us to implode

    • Chris L says:

      06:18pm | 11/03/11

      Not to worry Null. Just reverse the polarity of tachion emissions from your nearest deflector dish and the time/space/fantasy continuum shall be safe from interaction with your alternate self.

      A few borg nanoparticles couldn’t hurt either.

    • Em says:

      11:29am | 11/03/11

      I think Joe is onto something here with the barriers. The newly installed ones @ North Sydney are routinely faulty and quite often someone behind you will insert a ticket that is “invalid”  and the barriers will slam shut on you with brute force. I went through one the other day, and as I was carrying a large amount of shopping went through on a slightly sideways angle. I copped a direct hit to the guts which has left a massive bruise and I still have stomach pains 3 days after the fact. Those things are fricken dangerous.


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