Class and privilege on the 10.15 Hurstbridge train

I was on the train last night at about 10.15pm, heading home from the city.

Ticket inspectors got on. So I reached into my pockets to grab my Myki.

I held it in my hand as the ticket inspectors went up and down the carriage, checking left and right, until they came across the two women sitting opposite. The two women, aged perhaps 25 and 45, had just rushed onto the train at the last minute before it rolled out of Flinders St Station. Other than that little flurry of activity I hadn’t noticed them.

But the ticket inspectors zeroed in. At least one of the ladies did not have a ticket. They remained in remarkably good spirits throughout the encounter, insisting that they normally touched on. “Is he reading me my rights?” the older one joked. “Feels like being at the cop station,” the younger one laughed. And a little bit later she told the ticket inspectors, “I just got out of jail!”

I worried about these two ladies being able to pay the fine. Probably, I imagined, they wouldn’t and would end up in court. Probably, I imagined, the presiding judge would sigh when they saw the long list of priors.

As the inspector wrote out the last few details on the ticket, the older woman got a bit snarky. “Do you get off on this?” she asked, pointedly. “I’m just doing my job,” the inspector said, in a voice that was controlled and milky-mild.

Whether inspectors really enjoyed checking tickets, or were simply doing their job, you’d think they might have checked mine.

Ticket inspectors were milling around everywhere. Three were talking to the women opposite while the rest checked the other passengers. But not me. I sat there with my Myki in my hand, even making eye contact with one ticket inspectors who was leaning against the wall, but it seemed none of them wanted to see if I’d touched on. (I had.)

I was wearing a suit. My partner and I had just been to the art gallery to see an exhibition. We’d been guests of a company that sponsors the gallery. They had served food and drink before letting us loose into an after-hours visit. We were grateful for the night out and we enjoyed the exhibition.

“Aren’t we lucky to get to see this?” we said. But it may be even luckier to have people look at you and assume you’re not guilty.

So what’s the lesson? Life’s easier in both obvious and subtle ways when you’re from a privileged background. It’s worth remembering.

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thomasthethinkengine

Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

2 thoughts on “Class and privilege on the 10.15 Hurstbridge train”

  1. Perhaps it was your attitude rather than how you werr dressed that was the reason they didn’t check your ticket – that you clearly had nothing to hide.

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    1. I can’t conclusively prove it wasn’t my relaxed demeanour, Marty, but that relaxed demeanour may be partly from being in a social group the authorities don’t crack down on too often.

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