After the puppetry, we sat in the train on Friday night at Flinders Street, waiting for the 10:12pm departure (for Sandringham — not my usual line — long story), munching on the banana cake and sipping our hot chocolates from the concourse snack purveyor. Both were, frankly, much better than I expected them to be, and just what was called for on a dark cold night.

A bloke got on with his bicycle, and lifted it to shove the front wheel into the gap behind the door railing. It nudged the intercom alarm button, and the light around the button started silently flashing. Unaware, he sat down.

We watched. Nothing happened. No squads of security personnel, no dramatic entrance of police.

(Tangent: A mate of mine once worked at a Timezone arcade, clearing money out of the video game machines. One day the boss got him to work in an office upstairs in a cash booth, counting money. He saw a button underneath the desk and wondered what it did. He was curious and pressed it. Ten minutes later his boss came in and asked if he pressed the button. “Yes, why?” “Because five police just came in with their guns drawn.”)

Nobody came. Not even a curious Connex employee poking his head round the door. Maybe the driver was having a smoko or something.

10:12 rolled around. Ding. Announcement. Beep-beep-beep. Doors close, we were off, the light still flashing.

Halfway through the tunnel out towards Richmond, a voice came from the intercom. “You have pressed the emergency button! What is your emergency?” All those in the carriage who hadn’t seen the button get pressed looked around bewildered, including the cyclist. The rest wondered what to do.

“Which emergency service do you require?” demanded the driver, sounding more urgent. No way was anybody going to get mugged on his train.

Blank look continues from cyclist. I stood up and went over to the wedged-in bicycle and the intercom. “It’s all right, the button got pressed by mistake.”

The driver replied “Okay, thanks mate.”

The cyclist stood up, having worked out what happened. He looked embarassed, and mumbled “sorry” in direction of the intercom, and unwedged his bike, moving it to the other side where there was no button. Bit late, but oh well, no harm done.

The train kept rolling into the night, thankfully emergency-free.

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.

4 replies on “Alarm”

Heaven forbid someone was actually in an emergency and needed help right away. Could have been murdered five times over before anything happened.

“What’s your emergency?”

“Just bleeding to death, don’t worry about me.”

Going to the shops on a tram, driver bursts out of driving compartment and says to all, who pushed the emergency button? Then he looked at a young guy and said to him directly, please don’t do that again.

Kid said, ‘what, I didn’t do anything’.

Driver said, ‘Ah well, what about the flashing light on the emergency communication system right above your head’.

I would like to think that emergency communication systems are taken seriously by authorities/operaters, but I can understand why they are not.

As a kid, I used to look at the emergency chain in the country trains and wonder if the train would actually stop if I pulled it. A bit later, American movies indicated that it would stop. I did wonder how they would know who pulled the chain.

As an adult, I am at least smart enough to know that a button you can push or a chain that you can pull could delay your journey.

I have been in a train a couple of times when the emergency button has been pushed accidentally, and once when there was an actual emergency (in the city loop in rush hour a guy standing in the doorway just kind of passed out – I think it may have been a seizure). In my experience the response times vary between 60 seconds and a couple of minutes. And nobody ever wants to say that they have pushed it by mistake (which is actually not that difficult when the train is crowded).

Comments are closed.