Both sides of the coin

This morning I did the direct action human pop-up thang, helping to hand out brochures at Melbourne Central about the impending closure of the station’s busiest exit, so they can detour people around via the shops – the greedy money grabbers!

Reactions from passing commuters included:

  • indifference (understandable when you’re the third person to try and hand something to them, after the jewellers’ junk mail and Safeway handing out apples)
  • sorry, in too much of a hurry sprinting up the stairs to take anything (of course these people will be worst affected by the change)
  • avoidance because saying something about Melbourne Central planning to close their busiest exit is obviously the ranting of a delusional madman (which is why it helps to hand them out in groups – the chances of multiple madmen printing brochures and converging at one location are minimal)
  • paying attention – "What?! That’s a crazy idea! Ooh, yes I’ll take a leaflet, thank you"
  • taking it just because you’re nice enough to be standing there holding them out. Probably the same people who take the dozens of "How To Vote" cards when going into a polling place
  • "Oh, I heard about this – how stupid"
  • "Thanks I already got a leaflet" and perhaps "I’ve rung up/e-mailed/complained/good onya"

There’s a certain momentum to it. If a bunch of people are coming up the stairs, and a couple of them take your brochure, the others probably will too because they figure if their peers are taking them, they must be worth taking.

After about half an hour the stack of brochures were gone, and my voice was hoarse. What happens if a bunch of people wanting the brochure arrive when you only have one left?… and how much of a dipstick do you feel promoting your brochure when you only have one to give away?

Having given the last one away, wondering how odd and suspicious I looked, walked casually from the scene, down Swanston Street towards work.

For the rest of the day I was on the other side, passing Amnesty people collecting for Candle Day on most intersections. Great cause, but I kept on walking, feeling guilty that I didn’t have the time to stop and say "ummm, sorry I’m not giving you any money… no really, I support the cause… I hate being tortured… I haven’t got any change… The orange sticker you’re giving people doesn’t match my tie… I give every month by direct debit, honest!"

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.